The infectious disease expert, celebrated by critics for his willingness to fault the US pandemic response, has not joined at his three briefings this week, which featured a subdued chief executive urging mask use and social distancing.
“The president has gone out there, and is saying things now that I think are important, has to do with wearing masks, crowded — staying away from the crowded places. So I think that they have been helpful now,” Fauci said in a webchat with the Washington Post.
“They’ve been short and crisp, which I think is good when you’re trying to get a message across. So I think the last I think it’s three times that the president has been out. I think it’s important that that continues: short, crisp, have defined the message that people can understand, such as wearing masks and staying away from crowds.”
Anthony Fauci, Mike Pence, and Donald TrumpAlex Wong/Getty Images
Fauci, longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he and spoke on the phone last week, and that he had urged the president to take a more restrained approach toward messaging.
“It was a good call, and it had a lot to do with encourages — encouraging to do the kinds of things that we’re seeing being done right now,” Fauci said.
Fauci said he doesn’t feel a need to return himself to the White House briefing room, where he was a fixture during daily briefings in March and April. His absences this week attracted media interest, but Fauci said he doesn’t feel compelled to attend because briefings can feature “questions that have a little bit to do with health.”
“I tend to like to see press briefings that are crisp and to the point,” Fauci said.
The doctor said he doesn’t believe he made any mistakes in advising the president on the pandemic, pushing back on allies who highlighted his early discouragement of mask-wearing to slow transmission of the virus. He said he hadn’t realized how common asymptomatic transmission was at the time, or considered that use of cloth face coverings could avert possible shortages of masks for medical workers.
“It’s very interesting when you use the word mistake,” Fauci said. “You look at the data, you look at the evidence and you make either a recommendation or a policy. When the information changes, and you change what you’re saying, it’s because you’re wanting to follow the evidence in the data. And that’s the right thing to do. So do you then call that a mistake? Back then, well back then, it wasn’t a mistake.”