Donald Trump last night said the US would be in a ‘massive depression’ if he had listened to the scientists on coronavirus, while his top diseases expert told an interviewer that the president had hosted a ‘super-spreader event.’
As the president pitted the election as a ‘Trump super-recovery’ versus a ‘Biden depression’ at another rollicking rally, Dr Anthony Fauci told 60 Minutes that he was ‘absolutely not’ surprised Trump had caught covid.
‘I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded – no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask (at the Amy Coney Barrett event in the Rose Garden.’ Fauci told CBS.
‘When I saw that on TV, I said, “Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come out of that, that’s got to be a problem.” And then sure enough, it turned out to be a super-spreader event.’
Fauci’s gloomy analysis comes as Trump held a campaign rally, telling his fans that if former Vice President Biden makes it into the Oval Office: ‘He’s gonna lock down. This guy wants to lock down.’
Speaking in Nevada, the president said: ‘He’ll listen to the scientists. If I listened totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression.’
Experts have continued their dire warnings that the US is heading into the ‘darkest hour of the pandemic’ despite the death rate currently averaging about 700 per day, way below the April peak of nearly 2,000 daily fatalities.
The deaths rate has also dropped, from 60 deaths per 100,000 people to 37 in May down to 27 per 100,000 in June.
But Michael Osterholm, a renowned infectious disease expert, last night gace a grim prognosis for the Americans that have already experienced 8.13million coronavirus infections and 219,000 deaths.
Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, was asked about the White House’s controversial push towards herd immunity on NBC and admitted he didn’t share Trump’s optimism.
‘We’re not telling the full story. We do have vaccines and therapeutics coming down the pike, but when you look at the time period for that, the next six to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the pandemic, he said.
‘Vaccines will not become available in any meaningful way until early to [the] third quarter of next year. And even then, about half of the U.S. population at this point is skeptical of even taking the vaccine.’
Osterholm blamed the skepticism on a ‘major problem in messaging.’
He explained that Americans don’t have a ‘lead’ or ‘consolidated’ voice to guide them through the pandemic at the moment.
‘People don’t know what to believe, and that’s one of our huge challenges going forward [is] that we’ve got to get a message to the public that reflects the science and reflects reality,’ said Osterholm.
He added that the goal of herd immunity was best reached when placing citizens through a vaccination program – not simply allowing them to get the virus – but that would require public support.
‘We need somebody to start to articulate, ‘What is our long-term plan? How are we going to get there? Why are we asking people to sacrifice distancing? Why are we telling people if you really love your family, you won’t go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas and end up infecting mom or dad or grandpa and grandma.”
‘We don’t have that storytelling going on right now, and that’s every bit as important as the science itself.’
On Friday, there were 70,000 new coronavirus cases in the country – the highest level since July.
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Osterholm said that figure is worrying and perhaps a sign of things to come, despite many who argue that this is as a result of a massively increased testing capacity.
‘Friday we had 70,000 cases, matching the largest number we had seen back during the really serious peak in July. That number… we’re going to blow right through that. And between now and the holidays we will see numbers much much larger,’ Osterholm said.
The expert said that regardless of who wins the White House on Nov. 3, leadership on virus response is needed.
‘We need somebody to start to articulate, what is our long-term plan? How are we going to get there? Why are we asking people to sacrifice distancing? Why are we telling people if you really love your family you won’t go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas? We don’t have that storytelling right now,’ Osterholm said.
‘This is our covid year. Let’s accept it. Think through this and do them the greatest gift of all. And that is distance yourself this year and don’t expose them. It’s not ideal. We know that. But we’re trying to get through it.’
Although the White House emerged as a solid front when it enacted the coronavirus task force in January, the facade slowly waned as Trump ignored health experts’ guidelines and dissenting voices entered civil discourse.
Trump and Fauci have publicly bumped heads over various issues before, although his latest remarks about the ‘super-spreader’ ACB event are perhaps the starkest example to date.
Trump’s more laissez faire approach to eradicating the pandemic clashed with Fauci, who repeatedly called for Americans to adhere to social distancing and emphasized the importance of face masks.
The pair’s most recent clash came over herd immunity, which was reportedly proposed to Trump by medical adviser Scott Atlas.
Several health experts have dismissed herd immunity as a viable solution, including Fauci, who called it ‘total nonsense,’ as well as ‘scientifically and ethically problematic.’
Fauci, in an interview on 60 Minutes, said: ‘If you just let things rip and let the infection go – no masks, crowds – that quite frankly is ridiculous.
‘What that will do is there will be so many people in the community that you can’t shelter, that you can’t protect, who are going to get sick and get serious consequences.
‘If you talk to anybody who has any experience in epidemiology and infectious diseases they’ll tell you it’s risky and you’ll wind up with many more infections of vulnerable people, which will lead to hospitalizations and deaths.
‘I think we’ve got to look that square in the eye and say it’s nonsense.’
Last month, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr Robert Redfield was overheard talking about Atlas in a phone call, saying ‘everything he says is false’.
The misleading data, according to Redfield, includes questioning the efficiency of masks, if young people are susceptible to COVID-19 and herd immunity.
In response to Redfield’s comments, Atlas said: ‘Everything I have said is directly from the data and the science. It echoes what is said by many of the top medical scientists in the world, including those at Stanford, Harvard, and Oxford.’
Atlas falsely claimed that herd immunity could be achieved once 20 to 40 per cent of Americans were infected, although he later called reports of that nature ‘lies.
‘There’s news, there’s opinion and then there’s overt lies — and that was one of those overt lies,’ Atlas said.
According to Osterholm, the herd immunity claims are nothing more than ‘pixie dust.’
‘First of all, that 20% number is the most amazing combination of pixie dust and pseudoscience I’ve ever seen,’ he said. ‘It’s 50% to 70% at minimum.’
Osterholm reiterated his push for a coronavirus vaccination, saying ‘this virus is going to keep looking for wood to burn for as long as it can.
‘So our goal is to get as many people protected with vaccines.’