Dr. Anthony Fauci, coronavirus task force member and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has given his first TV interview after an absence of more than two weeks.
Fauci said he expects the public will “probably be seeing a little bit more of me and my colleagues,” when questioned over his limited appearances on CNN’s Global Town Hall on Thursday.
Prior to this latest broadcast, Fauci had not given a television interview since May 4, while his colleague Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, has also made limited press appearances in recent weeks.
“There was a period of time, there was a little bit [of a] lull in our being out there with the press, but I believe that’s going to change,” Fauci said in the CNN interview. “We’ve been talking with the communications people and they realize we need to get some of this information out. Particularly some of the scientific issues for which I’m predominantly responsible for, so hopefully we’ll be seeing more of us, will get the opportunity to talk to you.”
Fauci said the work of the task force has changed, but in “an interesting way,” adding there is a “sub group” of doctors which meets “much more often” to talk about scientific issues.
“The task force as a whole, as you know, the theme has been shifting somewhat, it’s looking at the reopening, the economic impact, so there’s more of an emphasis on that but that’s not to the diminution of the scientific issues,” he said. “We had a very good discussion today about some of the issues regarding guidelines about some of the trends and the patterns of infection so we had a very good meeting today I was very pleased with it.”
Fauci also spoke of a vaccine trial about which he said he was “cautiously optimistic,” stating neutralizing antibodies had been found in a phase one study.
Discussing opening up states, he said further infections were going to be inevitable when doing so.
“As you open up, even under normal circumstances, in the best of circumstances, you are going to see infections,” he said.
“The critical issue for a successful opening is how effectively you address those blips. Do you have in place the capability, the testing and the manpower to identify, to isolate and to contact trace? If you do, you’ll be able to prevent those blips from becoming resurgence and you’ll be able to progress along the various phases of reopening for, hopefully, a successful reopening,” Fauci said.
Throughout Fauci’s media absence he gave testimony to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee earlier this month, which was sent over video link, in which he was able to underscore his views on reopening states which have shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.
During the testimony he warned against states opening prematurely or not following guidelines laid out when they do so, fearing this could prompt a second wave of infections.
He told senators: “I feel if that occurs, there is a real risk you will trigger an outbreak you may not be able to control, which paradoxically will set you back, not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided, but set you back on the road to economic recovery and almost turn the clock back rather than turning forward.”
Fauci was also recently given a platform by actress Julia Roberts, who spoke with him over her social media platforms, as part of a campaign in which celebrities are assisting experts in spreading messages throughout the pandemic.
During this interview, Fauci pushed the case for continued social distancing, and said: “Physical separation has worked but not completely. Now is not the time to tempt fate and pull back completely.”
The doctor’s absence also coincided with him having entered a “modified quarantine” earlier this month, which saw him work from home, wear a mask and be tested each day.
However, he appeared at a coronavirus briefing fronted by President Donald Trump on May 15, in which he wore a mask, as did Birx, while the president did not. Neither he nor Birx spoke at the conference.
Fauci’s hesitance over reopening has seemingly put him at odds with President Donald Trump, who has been keen to urge states to lift stay-at-home measures, though stating he wants to do so safely.
Trump criticized comments made by Fauci to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, stating the doctor’s comments over the return of schools “not acceptable.”
Fauci had said that it might be unrealistic for parents and students to anticipate schools reopening in August, unless there is an effective treatment or vaccine to COVID-19 found by that point.
Prominent conservatives and Trump allies have also pushed the president to sideline Fauci previously, after taking issue with his stance on reopening.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) previously told Fox Across America with Jimmy Failla that he felt Fauci and fellow coronavirus task force member Dr. Deborah Birx should be sidelined.
“Give them the gold watch and say thank you, exit stage left,” he said, before commenting on the economic issues caused by lockdown measures for members of the public.
“It’s time for them to go out and be quarantined without a government paycheck and see how they like that. We’ll see how they like it.”
Meanwhile a group of Republicans is said to be attempting to enlist support of medical professionals happy to push the message that the U.S. economy should reopen as quickly as possible, even if guidelines in place are not met.
Details of an effort to recruit medics came in a leaked recording of a conference call from May 11. This event as organized by CNP Action, which is part of the Save Our Country Coalition, a group pushing to end state lockdowns, the Associated Press reported.
All 50 states have begun to move toward reopening, though the extent of restrictions varies across different territories.
Coronavirus figures continue to increase in the U.S., with more than 1.5 million confirmed cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. More than 94,000 people infected with the virus have died in the U.S., while some 298,000 are said to have recovered.
The below graphic, from Statista, shows the worst-hit states as of May 20.