Signals coming last year from then-President Donald Trump about the seriousness of the growing coronavirus pandemic were "unfortunately damaging" to the efforts to fight the disease and its spread, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.
"I'm uncomfortable going back and directly criticizing," Fauci, now President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, told CNN's "New Day." "(But) when signals come saying this isn't so bad, we're in pretty good shape, when we're saying we're not, we being the health people, that was not helpful.
"The thing that I remember very clearly is when we were trying to open up the country, open up the economy and to do it carefully with the gateway, the phase 1, phase 2, the phase 3, I was hoping that we would see a uniform, unified approach towards all doing that together," said Fauci. "I still have flashing in my mind, those scenes of when we were trying to tell people to really be careful and avoid congregate settings and see on television at night people crowded at bars, inside, no masks. That was just asking for trouble. And, in fact, that's what we got. A lot of trouble."
He added that, in his opinion, political positions and divisions also led to the nation's COVID death toll, which passed 500,000 people on Monday.
"Anything that is not at its top peak in addressing it in the most appropriate way is going to lead to the kinds of things that we experienced," Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and served on Trump's Coronavirus Task Force, said. "I believe it's the case when you have a common enemy, you've got to pull together in the same way. It's like people on a crew team rowing in the same direction. You can't have disparate responses."
Fauci continued that for him, there were many low points over the past year, but the one he said was the most painful was when he saw places where ICU beds were limited but people were continuing to insist the pandemic was "fake news."
"How could you possibly say that when people in your own state, your own city, your own county are dying?" said Fauci. "That just boggled me and it still does ... here we are today looking at 500,000 Americans who have died thus far. I mean, that's the proof of what actually has been going on. You can't deny that. And I guess you asked me what the thing that was the low point for me is when people deny the reality of what's actually happening."
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