Asked about the health risks associated with President Trump’s return to in-person campaign rallies this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he remains concerned that any type of large-scale gathering will lead to more coronavirus outbreaks.
“That’s a risky situation,” Fauci told Yahoo News in a live interview on Thursday. “People ask me that question, and it often gets ... pinning me against the president. Put that aside for a moment and just talk generically. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are. When you have congregate settings where people are crowded together and virtually no one is wearing a mask, that is the perfect setup to have an outbreak.
“It’s just a public health and scientific fact,” Fauci continued. “We know that. We see that happening over and over again. And you can’t run away from the facts.”
Trump, who returned to the campaign trail this week after recovering from COVID-19, has held large rallies on three consecutive days this week, in Sanford, Fla., Johnstown, Pa., and Des Moines, Iowa. There was no social distancing at the events, and most attendees did not wear masks, despite the troubling rise in coronavirus cases in each of those states.
By contrast, Trump’s Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, has been holding small, socially distanced events. And Biden, unlike the president, has been wearing a mask.
Fauci, though, would not say whether he preferred Biden’s approach. “This is a trap,” he said. “I’m not going there. I’m talking generically — you should do things according to good public health guidelines. That means sufficient spacing, uniform wearing of masks, avoiding crowding situations. It doesn’t matter where you are, who you are or what your political party is.”
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House coronavirus task force, was critical of the Trump campaign for using him in one of its political ads because he said it took a comment he made about the administration’s response to the pandemic out of context.
The ad features a clip from a March Fox News interview with Fauci in which he says, “I can’t imagine ... that anybody could be doing more.”
“We were talking about the task force team,” Fauci told Yahoo News. “In the beginning, way back, when things were really on fire, we were working 24 hours a day, day and night, and in that context I said I don’t think we could’ve possibly done anything more.”
Fauci said that the task force now meets just once a week, though the doctors on the panel have additional meetings.
He also responded to Sen. Kamala Harris’s assertion during last week’s vice presidential debate that the administration knew of the threat presented by the coronavirus but “covered it up.”
“They knew what was happening, and they didn’t tell you,” Harris said at the debate, later adding: “They knew, and they covered it up.”
“I don’t know what she meant by ‘they knew,’” Fauci said. “We were talking about the risks. You know, at that time, really early on, there was virtually no infections in the United States. And we were saying at that particular moment there wasn’t much to do, but be careful because things could change rapidly. I don’t see cover-up there at all.”
Read more from Yahoo News: