Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert (right), has gone on the record to say “my meetings with the president have been dramatically decreased.”
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
With the nation’s coronavirus death toll now exceeding 106,000 people and spikes in cases popping up in several states that have reopened, the Trump administration has demonstrated little desire to keep the focus on public health efforts.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, recently went on the record to note how the White House Coronavirus Task Force infrequently meets now.
“Certainly my meetings with the president have been dramatically decreased,” Fauci said.
Reports of new cases of the coronavirus are climbing in more than a dozen states, including in areas of the country like Washington State that previously appeared to have their outbreaks under control, according to data collected by the New York Times.
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While the cataclysmic effects of the coronavirus pandemic continue to ravage the globe, the Trump administration has moved on.
For all of the enthusiasm President Donald Trump expressed over reopening the American economy and getting the nation back to work, his administration took its foot off the gas precisely when a new round of public health guidance was needed the most.
There is still no federal strategy for coronavirus testing or contact tracing, for example, and Trump’s coronavirus task force hasn’t held a public briefing since late April, according to logs of the official White House schedule. The administration has held some other briefings, and Trump announced the launch of a federal coronavirus vaccine effort on May 15.
A White House spokesman referred Insider to the Office of the Vice President for comment. A spokesperson for the vice president pointed to Pence’s public schedule, which indicates the task force currently meets twice per week.
Even insofar as there are federal guidelines for reopening various sectors of the economy, few states have come close to meeting those benchmarks.
As daily new cases nationwide have dropped from their mid-April highs of more than 30,000 per day, “flattening the curve” has only resulted in a leveling off of around 20,000 per day. Spikes in coronavirus cases are popping up in several states, including ones like Washington that previously appeared to have their outbreaks under control, according to data collected by the New York Times.
Some experts also fear that protests against police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd could lead to a fresh uptick in cases. Because of how the virus works, it could take a couple weeks before any spike in cases shows up in the data.
Earlier this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told the health news site STAT News that Trump has largely cut off contact with him and other public health experts.
“We used to have task force meetings every single day, including Saturday and Sunday, and about 75% of the time after the task force meeting we’d meet with the president,” Fauci said. “So I was meeting with him four times a week back, a month or so ago.
“But as you probably noticed, that the task force meetings have not occurred as often lately. And certainly my meetings with the president have been dramatically decreased.”
Fauci has warned of a deadly second wave of COVID-19 that could come in the fall and winter, though he recently offered an optimistic take that it’s “not inevitable” if proper measures are put in place as states reopen.
Protests and unrest stemming from the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn. have dominated the news cycle this week, and drawn the president’s focus.
Yet even before then, Trump was shifting his public comments away from the coronavirus and toward things like enacting revenge against China, insinuating that a cable news committed murder, and fighting over potentially moving the location of the Republican National Convention (out of frustrations with North Carolina’s coronavirus restrictions).
With testing, contact tracing and all of the logistics of reopening left to the states, Trump is pushing for an economic rebound without taking an active role in the singular global threat to the economy: the coronavirus.
Much of the slow rolling and eventual sidelining of public health experts began in May, with a New York Times piece on Trump’s new strategy beginning with a stark analysis.
“Confronted with America’s worst public health crisis in generations, President Trump declared himself a wartime president. Now he has begun doing what past commanders have done when a war goes badly: Declare victory and go home.”
Trump has made variations of his co-opted “cure is worse than the disease” argument by pointing to the externalities facing the more than 40 million Americans currently unemployed, mainly through dubious claims that suicides and other deaths of despair could outpace coronavirus-related deaths.
Nevertheless, as the new cases drag on in the tens of thousands and the curve stays blunted rather than on the decline, a scattered reopening will not be the cure the Trump administration is hoping for.
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