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Coronavirus: Fauci emerges to defend relationship with Trump

President's top health adviser says 'the idea of pitting one against the other is just not helpful' amid the nationwide Covid-19 outbreak

Chris Riotta
New York
Tuesday 24 March 2020 14:23 GMT
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Top US health expert Dr Fauci buries head in hands after Trump refers to State Department as 'Deep state department'

Dr Anthony Fauci, who serves as a public-facing member of Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, has defended his relationship with the president in a new interview about the White House administration's response to the pandemic.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases cleared the air on Tuesday after reports on palace intrigue and alleged friction between him and Mr Trump received national media attention throughout the week.

“When I’ve made suggestions he’s taken them. He’s never countered or overridden me — the idea of pitting one against the other is just not helpful,” the doctor said in an interview with WMAL's Morning on the Mall. “I wish that would stop and we’d look ahead at the challenge we have to pull together to get over this thing.”

Dr Fauci also warned young people and millennials they were not invincible to the novel virus, which has infected more than 42,000 Americans in all 50 states.

“The most vulnerable people … are particularly the elderly with underlying conditions,” he said, adding: “That does not mean that the younger generations, the millennials … should just ignore the precautions about spreading.”

While Mr Trump acknowledged at a press briefing on Monday that “this is going to be bad”, he also said national self-isolation guidelines would not last as long as many health officials and leading infectious disease experts have suggested.

“I’m not looking at months, I’ll tell you right now,” the president said. “We’re going to open up our country.”

Mr Trump's statements about the timeline seemingly differed from comments Dr Fauci made just days before, telling NBC’s Today Show: “I cannot see that all of a sudden, next week or two weeks from now, it’s going to be over.”

“I don’t think there’s a chance of that,” he added. “I think it’s going to be several weeks.”

The White House has also promoted a 15-day initiative to slow the spread of transmissions and flatten the curve while working to ensure the country's hospital system remains within capacity during the outbreak. Hospitals have already warned they are nearing capacity amid an influx of Covid-19 patients and have said they are running severely low on personal protective equipment, otherwise known as PPE.

Some experts have warned the period of self-isolation would have to last far longer than just 15 days in order to successfully prevent a worst-case scenario. But it remains unclear whether the president will continue to support such stringent measures for long, after he wrote in an all-caps tweet on Sunday: "WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!"

Dr Fauci was then absent from a Monday press briefing the president held at the White House, causing "Where's Dr Fauci?" to begin trending on Twitter nationally.

But Mr Trump appeared to express support for the doctor on Twitter, writing, “Thank you Tony!” and posting a video of a Fox News interview with the doctor in which he credits the president for listening to his suggestions.

He also posted a video recorded during an earlier press conference at the White House, in which Dr Fauci appeared to face palm and chuckle as Mr Trump mocked the "Deep State Department" in front of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

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