Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Thursday that partisanship is hurting the US response to Covid-19 in his latest blunt assessment of the country’s handling of the pandemic.
“You have to be having blindfolders on and covering your ears to think that we don’t live in a very divisive society now, from a political standpoint,” Fauci said on “Podcast-19,” FiveThirtyEight’s podcast on Covid-19.
“I mean, it’s just unfortunate, but it is what it is. And you know, from experience historically, that when you don’t have unanimity in an approach to something, you’re not as effective in how you handle it. So I think you’d have to make the assumption that if there wasn’t such divisiveness, that we would have a more coordinated approach.”
His comments come as many states are pausing or rolling back their reopening plans while grappling with record-breaking spikes in the virus. At least 33 states have trended upward in average daily cases — an increase of at least 10% over the previous week.
Fauci said that some parts of the country are doing “really well” at managing the pandemic, including communities where people follow the public health guidelines and have opened gradually.
“But as a country, when you compare us to other countries, I don’t think you can say we’re doing great. I mean, we’re just not.”
That message continues to be at odds with President Donald Trump, who boasted in an interview with Gray Television’s Greta Van Susteren that “we are in a good place” with the outbreak.
“Dr. Fauci said don’t wear masks and now he says wear them. And he said numerous things. Don’t close off China. Don’t ban China. I did it anyway,” Trump said. “I didn’t listen to my experts and I banned China. We would have been in much worse shape.”
“We’ve done a good job,” he continued. “I think we are going to be in two, three, four weeks, by the time we next speak, I think we’re going to be in very good shape.”
The President was responding to comments Fauci had made on Monday assessing that the status of the coronavirus in the US is “really not good.”
And on Wednesday, Fauci said he doesn’t think the US is going to get control of the virus without a vaccine.
“This virus, to our dismay, is spectacularly efficient in transmitting from person to person. So that makes me skeptical whether we would get permanent, sustained control of this without having a vaccine,” Fauci said.
While Fauci said he does think the pandemic can be controlled, “keeping it under control is going to be the real problem. Because this virus is not like other viruses that we’ve experienced,” Fauci said.
Despite the urgency, Fauci said regulators and vaccine makers are doing everything in their power to make sure it is effective and safe.
“We got to get it right. We really do,” Fauci said. “Because if we don’t, it might have a real negative impact in the long range, in the long term, on how people approach and respond to the need for vaccination, which is the reason why we’re taking so seriously that even though we’re doing this quickly, we’re not compromising the safety and nor are we compromising the scientific integrity.”