Top US medical adviser Fauci says Trump’s coronavirus approach ‘very likely’ cost lives

Robert Delaney
·3-min read

The US government’s top infectious disease expert said on Friday that former president Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic “very likely” cost lives.

“I don’t want that job to be a sound bite but … you could see that when you’re starting to go down paths that are not based on any science at all, and we’ve been there before, I don’t want to rehash it, that is not helpful at all,” Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN in an interview.

Fauci, made a senior adviser to President Joe Biden on Covid-19, blamed a lack of coordination between federal and state authorities for allowing infections to spread throughout the country. The US has already registered more than 400,000 coronavirus-related deaths and is on track to exceed half a million by the end of February.

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Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, whom the Senate confirmed on Friday, made pandemic assistance his first priority to address the mounting loss of life.

“What we saw a lot of was saying, ‘OK, states, do what you want to do,’ and states were doing things that clearly were not the right direction,” Fauci said.

Many US states, he added, “want to have the capability of making their own decisions, but they also need resources, and they need help”.

Fauci spoke as US health authorities confront thousands of Covid-19 deaths a day and face the possibility that the numbers will escalate as new, possibly more contagious, variants of the coronavirus that causes the disease emerge in the country.

Throughout the pandemic, Trump, who left office on Wednesday, played down its severity and often insisted that the contagion was dying out. He refused to promote mask-wearing, which Biden addressed in his first full day in office with an executive order requiring the wearing of masks in all federal buildings and on public transport.

Dr Fauci’s 2021 Covid-19 forecast for America

Trump also promoted unproven scientific remedies, including the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.

In a bid to speed up vaccination in the US, Biden plans to mobilise the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard to set up as many as 100 sites around the country within the next month to deliver the shots, The Washington Post reported, citing a draft document by the administration.

US vaccinations started nearly six weeks ago, but fewer than six doses have been administered for every 100 people as of Friday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Newly appointed US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin (right) greets Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, as Austin arrives at the Pentagon for his first day on the job. Photo: EPA-EFE
Newly appointed US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin (right) greets Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, as Austin arrives at the Pentagon for his first day on the job. Photo: EPA-EFE

“We must help the federal government move further and faster to eradicate the devastating effects of the coronavirus,” Austin said in his “Day One Message to the Force”.

“To that end, we will also do everything we can to vaccinate and care for our workforce and to look for meaningful ways to alleviate the pressure this pandemic has exerted on you and your families.”

In another break from Trump, Fauci also said this week that the US would not withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN’s health agency, as the Trump administration had intended.

Trump and many of his allies in Congress had accused the WHO of bungling its early response to the outbreak because it was too deferential to China.

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