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Fauci on Trump claim that 99 percent of COVID-19 cases are 'harmless': 'Obviously not'

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight health care: AstraZeneca says its COVID-19 vaccine candidate is up to 90 percent effective It's time for COVID-19 disaster relief ... for mothers Fauci: US could see 'well over 300,000' COVID-19 deaths MORE, the nation's top infectious disease expert, in an interview published Friday pushed back on President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Trump's remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit MORE's claim that 99 percent of coronavirus cases are "harmless," saying that it is "obviously not" the case.

“I’m trying to figure out where the president got that number," Fauci told The Financial Times. "What I think happened is that someone told him that the general mortality is about 1 percent. And he interpreted, therefore, that 99 percent is not a problem, when that’s obviously not the case."

Trump earlier this month said that 99 percent of coronavirus cases are "totally harmless," a claim not backed by evidence. Previous estimates from experts have said about 80 percent of coronavirus cases do not require hospitalization and 20 percent do, though there remains uncertainty about how many cases are going undetected.

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The comments come amid growing public distance between Trump and Fauci. Trump has been seeking to downplay the virus, while Fauci and a wide range of other experts have warned of the danger of the worsening outbreaks around the country, which are leading to spikes in hospitalizations in hard-hit states.  

"Dr. Fauci is a nice man, but he's made a lot of mistakes," Trump told Fox News host Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityPalin responds to Obama: 'He is a purveyor of untruths' The evolution of cable TV news — after Donald Trump Fox News wins ratings week, while MSNBC touts daytime figures MORE on Thursday evening, saying experts had shifted their advice on masks, for example. 

Fauci told The Financial Times that he had not seen Trump in person since early June.