BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — With coronavirus cases spiking nationwide and epicenters shifting, President Trump announced Monday his plans to revive regular White House coronavirus task force briefings amid dwindling poll numbers.
The president was not joined by the nation’s leading expert on COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci—or any other coronavirus task force members during his Tuesday briefing at 5 p.m. EST.
In an interview Tuesday morning with CBS 42’s Emmy-award winning anchor Art Franklin and “Coronavirus House Calls” leading medical expert Dr. Michael Saag, Fauci said he “[had] not heard anything definitive” about his presence in President Trump’s highly-anticipated return to the podium. About an hour before the briefing, Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper he was “not invited.” Despite remaining in the dark on this matter, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CBS 42 he is unswayed in his commitment to his role on the task force.
“Certainly you’ve put aside even considering resigning from the task force, right?” Franklin asked Fauci during the doctor’s second “Coronavirus House Calls” appearance.
“Oh definitely, I’m not even thinking about that,” Fauci replied adamantly.
In an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” Trump defended his “very good” relationship with Fauci but criticized the doctor’s public response to COVID-19, calling him “a little bit of an alarmist” who has “made some mistakes.”
Facing additional criticism from members of the Trump administration, Dr. Fauci told CBS 42 he wants to “put aside all that nonsense.”
“…That kind of noise just gets in the way of the common job that we have and the common goal that we want to reach,” Fauci said. “It’s just unfortunate that some people have made those kinds of remarks that are really not founded in any reality at all, if you dig deep into it.”
A sobering reality, the U.S. hit another record in new coronavirus cases this week. The University of Washington projects the U.S. death toll could be more than 200,000 by October 1, but that number could drop by 40,000 if 95% of Americans would wear a mask.
“You and I, along with most health officials and experts, have been saying to the public… wear a mask, keep social distance, yet there are many who don’t. Why is that you think we’re having such trouble, and what can we do about it?” Saag asked Fauci.
Addressing America’s mask resistance, Fauci said it’s “very disconcerting” to see people pushing back on health guidelines.
“They seem to be forgetting that this is about public health; it’s not about authority,” Fauci said.
With some Americans reluctant to follow doctors’ orders, hospitals in various regions of the country are inundated with COVID-19 patients. According to Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration, more than 150 hospitals in the state had no more adult ICU beds, as of Tuesday evening. Less than 16% of the state’s adult ICU hospital beds were available. Some hospitals in Texas, Arizona and California are experiencing the same problem.
“Doctors and nurses are exhausted,” Saag said. “What are your thoughts about…what governors might be able to do…we don’t want to do it…but returning to shelter-in-place?”
“Right now what we need to do is call a time-out,” Fauci advised. “I don’t think we all need to go back to lock down. We need to pause and even take a step or a step and a half backward. We still want to reopen, but let’s do it in a prudent way.”
It appears the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may also be considering a step back in regards to the reopening of schools. Last week, the CDC was expected to release school reopening guidance, which has since been delayed until the end of the month. With the Trump administration pushing heavily for the reopening of schools, Fauci says it is a “high priority.”
“We all want to open the schools…We will try as best as we can to keep the schools open, Fauci said. “We’ve got to remember that paramount to all of this is the safety and the health of the children and of the teachers.”
While dilemmas with gatherings will undoubtedly persist through the start of the school year, Fauci is optimistic about multiple vaccine candidates. With promising results from vaccines undergoing human trials, most notably the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, Fauci says he’s “heartened by what [he’s] seeing” but won’t comment on an ETA.
“Obviously we need to do more studies with more people,” Fauci explained. “More than one candidate appears to be inducing the kinds of responses that favorably might produce a degree of optimism about whether or not they’re going to be able to block infection.”
Something the doctor is less optimistic about…the first pitch he will throw out at the upcoming season opener between the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees.
“I’m afraid I’m going to bounce it, but we’ll see,” Fauci admitted to Franklin and Saag after the CBS 42 interview.