President Trump’s advisers undercut the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, over the weekend, anonymously providing details to various news outlets about statements he had made early in the coronavirus outbreak that they said were inaccurate.
The move to treat Fauci, who has led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for decades, as if he were a warring political rival came as he has grown increasingly vocal in his concerns about the national surge in coronavirus cases, as well as his lack of access to Trump over the past several weeks. It has been accompanied by more measured public criticism from administration officials, including the president.
And it came just days after the White House called school reopening guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention overly restrictive, part of a pattern of the administration trying to sideline recommendations that could slow the reopening of the economy, which Trump views as vital to his flailing reelection effort.
Aides to Trump first released to The Washington Post what the paper called a “lengthy list” of remarks that Fauci had made about the virus when it was in its early stages. That list featured several comments from Fauci that White House aides had privately complained about for months, including one in February in which he minimized the chance of asymptomatic spread and said people did not need to make big changes to their lives.
An official told The Post that several other officials were concerned about how often Fauci had been wrong.
For example, White House officials pointed to a statement by Fauci in a Feb. 29 interview that “at this moment, there is no need to change anything that you’re doing on a day-by-day basis.” But they omitted a warning he delivered right after.
“Right now the risk is still low, but this could change,” he said in the interview, conducted by NBC News. “When you start to see community spread, this could change and force you to become much more attentive to doing things that would protect you from spread.”
In the same interview, Fauci also warned that the coronavirus could become “a major outbreak.”
The list of statements, laid out in the style of a campaign’s opposition research document, was later released to several news outlets. It was an extraordinary move for the White House to provide news organizations with such a document about a health official who works for the administration and retains a high level of public trust.
Fauci declined to comment.
New York Times
Delay in testing results hobbles people’s response
WASHINGTON — Test results for the coronavirus are taking so long to come back across the United States that specialists say the results are often proving useless in the campaign to control the deadly disease.
Some testing sites are struggling to provide results in five to seven days. Others are taking longer. Outbreaks across the Sun Belt have strained labs beyond capacity. That rising demand, in turn, has caused shortages of swabs, chemical reagents, and equipment as far away as New York.
The long testing turnaround times are making it impossible for the United States to replicate the central strategy used by other countries to effectively contain the virus — test, trace, and isolate. Like catching any killer, speed is of the essence when it comes to the coronavirus.
‘‘Instead of going from one step to the next, it’s like you’re already stumbling right out of the gate,’’ said Crystal Watson, a public health specialist at Johns Hopkins University. ‘‘It makes contact tracing almost useless. By the time a person is getting results, they already have symptoms, their contacts may already have symptoms and have gone on to infect others.’’
After attending a funeral, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and her family got tested June 29 as a precaution. No one in her family had developed symptoms.
A week later, her test results still hadn’t come back, but her husband started feeling ill. So they got a different, rapid test through Emory University. Within hours, Bottoms learned that she, her husband, and one of the couple’s four children had become infected.
It wasn’t until the next day that their initial test results arrived. They showed that when the family first got tested, only one of them, a child, had the virus. While they waited for their test results, the boy possibly passed it to his parents.
‘‘It really speaks to the failure of testing in this country right now,’’ Bottoms, a Democrat, said in an interview Friday. ‘‘Had we known we had an asymptomatic child in the house, we would have immediately quarantined and taken all the precautions.’’
Instead, the mayor’s husband, Derek Bottoms, 56, turned feverish and fatigued and experienced night sweats. He lost 20 pounds in a week, Bottoms said.
Pelosi says she hopes Trump changes tune about masks
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that President Trump has “crossed a bridge” by wearing a face mask during a visit to a military hospital.
Pelosi told CNN’s “State of the Union” that she hopes it means the president “will change his attitude, which will be helpful in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.”
Trump wore a mask during a visit Saturday to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in suburban Maryland, where he met wounded servicemembers and health care providers.
It was the first time the president was seen in public with the type of facial covering recommended by health officials.
Arkansas reports state-record number of cases
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas authorities have reported a state-record of 1,061 newly confirmed coronavirus cases for a single day but no new deaths related to the virus.
State health officials said that the total for COVID-19 cases now stood at 27,864. The state said the death toll remained at 313 for the outbreak.
Man dies after attending a ‘COVID Party’ in Texas
A 30-year-old man who believed the coronavirus was a hoax and attended a “COVID party” died after being infected with the virus, according to a Texas hospital.
The man had attended a gathering with an infected person to test whether the coronavirus was real, said Dr. Jane Appleby, chief medical officer at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, where the man died.
She did not say when the party took place, how many people attended, or how long after the event was the man hospitalized with COVID-19.
The premise of such parties is to test whether the virus exists or to intentionally expose people to the coronavirus in an attempt to gain immunity.
Appleby said the man had told his nurse that he attended a COVID party. Just before he died, she said the patient told his nurse: “I think I made a mistake. I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not.”
New York Times