Anthony Fauci may have been sidelined from TV interviews but he’s still doing online conversations along with print pieces, such as an online cover story for InStyle.
On Thursday, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has become the star expert during the coronavirus pandemic, spoke to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for a livestream interview that lasted nearly an hour.
It was Zuckerberg, though, who criticized the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis, as he referred to efforts by some in the Trump administration to undermine scientific guidance and Fauci himself.
“You might be quite generous in your description of the government’s response here. I was certainly sympathetic early on when it was clear that there would be some outbreaks, no matter how well we handle this,” Zuckerberg told Fauci. “Now that we are here in July, I just think that it was avoidable and it is really disappointing that we still don’t have adequate testing, that the credibility of top scientists like yourself and the CDC are being undermined. Until recently, parts of the administration were calling into question whether people should follow basic best practices like wearing masks.”
Zuckerberg has received criticism that the Facebook platforms have not taken greater steps to control misinformation on the Facebook platforms, particularly when it comes to some of the president’s comments.
In his interview with Zuckerberg, Fauci warned of the rising number of cases in southern states but otherwise did not criticize Trump and his team.
But he took issue with the notion that controlling the spread of the virus came at the expense of reopening the economy.
“We should be looking at public health measures as a vehicle, or a gateway, to opening the country, not as the obstacle in the way, but as the gateway,” he told Zuckerberg.
He suggested that states that have seen dramatic increases in cases, including Florida and Arizona, didn’t follow the suggested recommendations to safely reopen.
“You have got to do it correctly,” Fauci said. “You can’t jump over steps, which is very perilous when you think about rebound. The proof of the pudding is, look what has happened. There really is no reason that we are having 40, 50, 60 thousand, other than we are not doing something correctly.”
Fauci also said that his early advice not to wear masks was motivated by a concern over adequate supplies for medical professionals. He said that earlier this year, it also was not clear that there were asymptomatic people who could spread the virus. Now that it has been recommended, there has been pushback on private and public sector mandates to wearing them.
Fauci also tried to refute the notion that wearing masks could be harmful to health.
“There has not been any indication that putting a mask on, and wearing a mask for a considerable period of time, has any deleterious effects on oxygen exchange and things like that,” he said.
The good news from the interview was Fauci’s optimism over a vaccine. He said that “we should know, as we get to mid to late fall, whether we have [vaccine] candidates that are safe and effective.”
This week, Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro wrote an op ed for USA Today attacking Fauci’s credibility, while another adviser, Dan Scavino, posted a cartoon on Twitter mocking him.
Fauci told her that his three daughters have had a difficult time with some of the attacks that he has received as his profile rose during the pandemic.
“This real and perceived built-up conflict between me and the president makes them very nervous,” Fauci said. “They don’t like that. They got upset by the death threats and the harassment that I received early on. So it’s been tough on them; this has been a tough deal for them.”