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Fauci rips White House coronavirus approach

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciKamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Overnight Health Care: Biden team to begin getting COVID briefings | Fauci says he would 'absolutely' serve on Biden's COVID task force | Major glove factories close after thousands test positive for COVID-19 Fauci says he would 'absolutely' serve on a Biden coronavirus task force MORE, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, took aim at the White House’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak as the country is approaching winter and seeing a spike in cases, saying that “it’s not a good situation.”

“We’re in for a whole lot of hurt. It’s not a good situation,” Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told The Washington Post in an interview this weekend. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that “all the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors.”

“You could not possibly be positioned more poorly,” he continued.

In a broad interview with the paper, Fauci warned of the country reaching a point where it could see more than 100,000 coronavirus cases recorded daily if it does not reverse course quickly when it comes to public health practices. His comments come shortly after the country recorded a surge in COVID-19 infections last week and as multiple states have reported record numbers of cases in recent weeks. 

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Fauci said in the interview that Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Obama: Republican Party members believe 'white males are victims' MORE’s campaign “is taking it seriously from a public health perspective,” while President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE is “looking at it from a different perspective” by focusing on “the economy and reopening the country.”

He also said that the coronavirus task force has been having fewer meetings, despite rising cases in the country and that “the public health aspect of the task force has diminished greatly.”

Fauci told the paper that the president is not as accessible to him and White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah BirxDeborah BirxWhite House largely silent on health precautions for Thanksgiving The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Pence, Biden wage tug of war over pandemic plans Fauci, Birx urge Americans to take precautions against virus in rare White House appearance MORE as he once was. Fauci said the last time he and the president spoke was around the start of October. 

“The last time I spoke to the president was not about any policy; it was when he was recovering in Walter Reed, he called me up,” Fauci told the paper.

“All of a sudden, they didn’t like what the message was because it wasn’t what they wanted to do anymore. They needed to have a medical message that was essentially consistent with what they were saying,” he said in the interview.

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While he told the paper that he has been attending staff meetings by phone, he also said he hasn’t been at the White House often since it saw its own coronavirus outbreak among staffers last month.

The interview comes roughly two weeks after Trump blasted Fauci in a call with his campaign staff, saying the public health expert was a “disaster” and claiming that Americans “are tired of COVID.”

“Yup, there’s going to be spikes, there’s going to be no spikes, there’s going to be vaccines. With or without vaccines, people are tired of COVID,” Trump said on the call, according to audio obtained by The Hill. “I have the biggest rallies I have ever had and we have COVID. People are saying whatever, just leave us alone. They’re tired of it.”  

“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots, these people, these people that have gotten it wrong. Fauci is a nice guy, he’s been here for 500 years, he called every one of them wrong,” Trump also said.

Fauci said in his interview over the weekend that the “the only medical person who sees the president on a regular basis is Scott Atlas.”

“It’s certainly not Debbie Birx,” he added before going on to criticize Atlas, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a member of the White House coronavirus task force.

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“He insists he’s not somebody who’s pushing for herd immunity,” Fauci told the paper. “He says, ‘That’s not what I mean.’ [But] everything he says — when you put them together and stitch them together — everything is geared toward the concept of ‘it doesn’t make any difference if people get infected. It’s a waste of time. Masks don’t work. Who cares.’”

“And the only thing you need to do is protect the vulnerable, like people in the nursing homes,” Fauci said.

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment. 

In a statement to the Post on Saturday, White House spokesman Judd DeereJudd DeereTrump set for precedent breaking lame-duck period Trump administration revives talk of action on birthright citizenship Trump retreats from public eye in post-election fight MORE knocked Fauci over his comments and accused him of playing politics just days ahead of the election.

“It’s unacceptable and breaking with all norms for Dr. Fauci, a senior member of the President’s Coronavirus Task Force and someone who has praised President Trump’s actions throughout this pandemic, to choose three days before an election to play politics,” Deere told the paper.

“As a member of the Task Force, Dr. Fauci has a duty to express concerns or push for a change in strategy, but he’s not done that, instead choosing to criticize the President in the media and make his political leanings known by praising the President’s opponent — exactly what the American people have come to expect from The Swamp,” he added.