One day after the country set a single-day record for positive Covid-19 cases—77,000 —the nation’s top infectious disease expert told Americans that the president is more detached than ever from the government’s leading scientists and health officials.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told Meet the Press host Chuck Todd on Friday that not only has Trump stopped attending coronavirus task force meetings for “several months” but the number of meetings themselves has “diminished.” Fauci said the shift from several meetings per week to only one has coincided with the president’s focus on “the economic reopening.”
Todd: Tell me about task force meetings these days. How often do they occur and who runs them?
Fauci: Well, they certainly are less than they used to be, Chuck. We used to have them during the early spring when things were really hot, particularly in the northeastern part, when New York was having a terrible time. We were meeting, you know, five, six, sometimes seven days a week. Then, sometime a few months ago, when things pivoted around to more of the economic reopening, as it were, of the country. The number of task force meetings have diminished, and we’re averaging right now about one a week… An official task force meeting, Chuck, in the last several weeks has been about one per week.
Also troubling, Fauci said that Scott Atlas, a radiologist from the conservative Hoover Institution, who questioned the use of masks and other public-health measures and has no background in infectious diseases or public health, has the president’s ear more so than Fauci.
Todd: [Trump] says you guys still talk. How often does he ask you for your advice? Do you feel like you have his ear as much as Scott Atlas?
Fauci: I definitely don’t have his ear as much as Scott Atlas, right now. That has been a changing situation.
Atlas, a favorite over at Fox News, was added to the task force this summer. He aligns perfectly with Trump’s downplaying of the virus and has pushed to reopen the country. In a September call, overheard by NBC News, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, said, “Everything [Atlas] says is false.”
Also today, CNN’s Brianna Keilar called out the president for saying Fauci is an “idiot” and a “disaster.” Trump also labeled Fauci as a partisan and registered Democrat earlier this week. (Fauci is not registered with any political party and has served under Republican and Democratic administrations.) Keilar’s bitting commentary ended with a focus on where the two men’s allegiances seem to lie.
“Anthony Fauci doesn’t serve a party. He serves the nation’s health,” Keilar said, “President Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that he serves himself at the expense of the nation’s health. So, it makes sense that these two maybe don’t see eye to eye.”
In stark contrast, Joe Biden delivered a speech on Friday from Delaware and focused on what he’d do about the pandemic if elected president.
“There’s a key difference in this campaign between Donald Trump and me. I believe in testing. Donald Trump does not. I believe in science. I believe in public health officials,” Biden said.
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