Days before President Trump is scheduled to hold a rally in Oklahoma, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he would not personally attend such events because he’s “in a high-risk category” for the coronavirus – and the nation risks a resurgence of the deadly illness if states fail to remain vigilant, according to reports.
“I’m in a high-risk category. Personally, I would not. Of course not,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease told The Daily Beast when asked if he’d attend the president’s planned rallies.
Fauci, 79, added that when it came to the packed events, “outside is better than inside, no crowd is better than crowd” and “crowd is better than big crowd.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci (left), director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases speaks next to Response coordinator for White House Coronavirus Task Force Deborah BirxGetty Images
On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence defended the decision to go ahead with a campaign rally in Tulsa on Saturday, saying safety precautions will be in place for the crowds.
Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a key member of the president’s coronavirus task force, told NPR’s “1A” on Tuesday that he had not talked with Trump in two weeks, USA Today reported.
The task force has made fewer public appearances of late as the White House has shifted its focus to reopening the economy.
Asked if any states had reopened too quickly, Fauci said he would not say some had reopened “too soon” but “certainly before they got to the benchmarks they needed to get.”
The uptick in COVID-19 cases in some states was likely due to people who are “not really adhering to the structured type of guidelines that belong to the phase that they’re in,” he added on “1A,” which is produced out of WAMU in Washington, DC.
Fauci lamented the perception among some people that social-distancing restrictions were “all or none,” USA Today reported.
“It isn’t as if you stay locked down or you open up and leave caution to the wind,” he said, adding that a second wave of the virus was “not inevitable” if “we do what we need to do to prevent it from happening.”
Any reopening, Fauci noted, must be conducted in the “context of careful, prudent reopening, namely having at your capability, the ability to be able to identify, isolate and contact trace so that when you see the inevitable blips, in cases, that those blips don’t become surges, and those surges don’t become a second wave.”
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Fauci said: “When I look at the TV and I see pictures of people congregating at bars when the location they are indicates they shouldn’t be doing that, that’s very risky.
“People keep talking about a second wave. We’re still in a first wave,” he added.
Fauci also said he doubted that there would be another scene similar to that of New York City in April, when hospitals were overcome by a deluge of coronavirus patients.
“New York, unfortunately, really got hit by surprise, because they had activity coming into this city from Europe when everybody was focusing on China. They all of a sudden found that they had a massive outbreak,” he told The Daily Beast.
“I don’t think that could happen under today’s circumstances of our full awareness of the potential of this virus, which is highly transmissible,” Fauci added.
On NPR, Fauci also weighed in on the nationwide protests that have erupted against police brutality and racial discrimination in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA Today reported.
He said he understands why people were protesting, but “the demonstrations itself, you must realize are actually putting you and others at risk” because of the ongoing pandemic.
The “best thing” to do is “don’t gather in crowds,” he said.
More than 116,000 people have lost their lives from the contagion across the US, according to statistics compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
“We are nowhere near herd immunity,” Fauci said in response to a question about the threshold at which enough people have been infected or recovered to protect the more vulnerable population.
“The bottom line is, you’ve got to protect yourself,” he said, adding that there was “good movement” toward a vaccine — and that the speed in its development was “not at the expense of safety.”