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Oct. 20, 2020, 9:26 a.m. EDT

Trump calls Dr. Fauci a ‘disaster’ — Fauci tells Americans: ‘Stay away from the politics’

The president said, ‘Every time he goes on television there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him’

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By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch


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Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said: ‘Whenever we public-health officials talk about implementing public-health measures people think that we want to shut the country down. We don’t want to do that.’

President Donald Trump took aim at Dr. Anthony Fauci Monday on a campaign call and on Twitter, calling him a “disaster” in a campaign call and bemoaning his media appearances, but the veteran immunologist told Americans to follow the scientific data, and to stay out of the political fray.

“Every time he goes on television there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him,” Trump said, according to the Associated Press. Trump added, “People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots.” The president, 74, added, “He’s been here for 500 years.”

“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” Trump said on the call, acknowledging that he would like to fire the doctor, who is a civil servant. “Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb. But there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him. But Fauci’s a disaster.”

As of Tuesday, COVID-19 had infected nearly 40.5 million people worldwide, which mostly does not account for asymptomatic cases, and killed 1.1 million people. The U.S. still has the world’s highest number of cases and deaths (nearly 8.2 million and 220,134 deaths), Johns Hopkins reported.

‘My advice to young people is — unless you want to be a politician — stay away from the politics and let science and good data guide your policy.’

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

On Twitter, the president also criticized Fauci’s media appearances: “Dr.Tony Fauci says we don’t allow him to do television, and yet I saw him last night on @60Minutes, and he seems to get more airtime than anybody since the late, great, Bob Hope.”

As winter approaches and the flu season begins, Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had some suggestions for young Americans on how best to deal with the coronavirus pandemic in an interview with the Johns Hopkins University Health Policy Forum.

He said, “My advice to young people is — unless you want to be a politician — stay away from the politics and let science and good data guide your policy.” Fauci added, “It’s still not too late to vigorously apply good public-health measures.”

While accepting an award on Monday, CNN reported that Fauci, 79, an expert in infectious diseases for the past four decades, said , “We’re going through a time that’s disturbingly anti-science in certain segments of our society.”

Trump appeared to be responding to an interview Fauci gave to “60 Minutes” on Sunday. Fauci said he was not surprised by Trump’s positive coronavirus diagnosis, given the press events and rallies held by the president. “I was worried that he was going to get sick,” Fauci said.

On Sunday, Twitter /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR +0.58%  blocked a post by Dr. Scott Atlas, one of President Donald Trump’s top health advisers, after he claimed face masks were ineffective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

‘Every time he goes on television there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him. But Fauci’s a disaster’

President Donald Trump on Anthony Fauci

“Masks work? NO” Atlas tweeted Sunday, followed by a thread of posts that misrepresented scientific findings on masks, which have shown broad agreement that they help to stop the spread of the disease, and are also an essential part of personal protective equipment for frontline workers.

The comments by Atlas, a Stanford radiologist with no background in infectious diseases, contradicts guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and Fauci.

Fauci has previously said that vulnerable people should also think about wearing a mask in the home if they’re around people who have had contact with others, and advised people to avoid crowds, congregating indoors and suggested frequent washing of hands.

“Whenever we public-health officials talk about implementing public-health measures people think that we want to shut the country down,” he said. “We don’t want to do that. What we want to do is use public-health measures in a prudent, careful way to help us to reopen the country.”

Related: CDC says big Thanksgiving gatherings are a high-risk activity. Here’s how to safely visit family this holiday season

After a surge of 70,000 new COVID-19 cases a day in the summer, Fauci told the Johns Hopkins Health Forum, “It’s now stuck at around 40,000 to 50,000.” That, he said, was a problem, particularly as winter looms. He said he had hoped for 10,000 new cases per day, or less.

“You can’t enter into the cool months of the fall, and the cold months of the winter with a high community infection baseline.” People will spend more time indoors, he added. “That’s when you have to be particularly careful about the spread of respiratory-born disease.”

Fauci is not the only public-health professional who is concerned about a “twindemic” of influenza and coronavirus during the winter months, making it more difficult to distinguish between symptoms caused by the respective viruses, and potentially overwhelming hospitals.

“The next six-to-12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic,” Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

AstraZeneca /zigman2/quotes/200304487/composite AZN -1.08% ; BioNTech SE /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +2.33% and partner Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE -0.49% ; Johnson & Johnson /zigman2/quotes/201724570/composite JNJ -1.02% ; Merck & Co. ID:MERK -0.61% ; Moderna /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA +3.50% ; Sanofi /zigman2/quotes/202859081/composite SAN +0.36% and GlaxoSmithKline /zigman2/quotes/209463850/composite GSK -0.78% are among those working on vaccines.

Also see: New Yorkers don’t have much hope that the city will recover from COVID-19 anytime soon

Fauci said his children won’t visit for the holidays. “Thanksgiving is going to look very different this year,” he said in a separate interview with CBS last week. “I would love to have it with my children, but my children are in three separate states throughout the country.”

He also said that voting in person on Nov. 3 is just as safe as going to Starbucks, assuming other people wear masks. “I think it’s just as safe to go and get a cup of coffee in a Starbucks in which everyone’s wearing a mask and doing the things they should be doing.”

‘You can’t enter into the cool months of the fall, and the cold months of the winter with a high community infection baseline.’

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Some 85% of U.S. adults say they wear a mask most or all of the time, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Aug. 3 to Aug. 16, versus 65% of Americans in June.

The partisan gap between Democrats and Republicans on mask wearing has also narrowed to 16 percentage points, down from 23 points last spring, Pew said.

In the latest survey, 92% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say they usually wear masks in stores and other businesses, compared to 76% of Republicans and GOP leaners. In June, 76% of Democrats said the same compared to 53% of Republicans and GOP leaners.

“As rapidly growing case counts strained health-care systems across the South and Southwest this summer, more Republican leaders ordered citizens to wear masks to help slow the spread of the virus,” the report said.

The Washington, D.C.-based think tank said that the president calling mask wearing “patriotic” may have helped. “In July, President Donald Trump wore a mask in public for the first time and urged Americans to do the same, marking a change in tone from earlier in the pandemic.”

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Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch's personal-finance editor and The Moneyist columnist for MarketWatch. You can follow him on Twitter @quantanamo.

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