Anthony Fauci blames Trump and political divide in America as US Covid-19 deaths cross 500,000
He said mixed signals from the White House under the Trump administration were not helpful in the fight against coronavirus
Over a year since the first case of coronavirus was identified in the US, more than half a million Americans have died in the pandemic. As the US crossed this grim milestone, Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said that the political divide in the country has contributed significantly to this ‘stunning’ death toll.
According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 28,188,310 cases of coronavirus have been reported from across the US and 500,236 Americans have lost their lives to the pandemic. It comes a year after the first known case of coronavirus death was reported from the US. Life expectancy in the US also fell by a full year in the first half of 2020, fuelled by the pandemic, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the first half of 2020, life expectancy at birth for the total US population was 77.8 years, declining by 1 year from 78.8 in 2019.
“At the end of the day, everybody got hit really badly...Everybody (every country) had a problem. However, that does not explain how a rich and sophisticated country can have the most percentage of deaths and be the hardest-hit country in the world. That I believe should not have happened,” Dr Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy (NIAID), and chief medical adviser in the Joe Biden administration, told Reuters.
Dr Fauci explained, “I tried to analyze what the most compelling reason why we’ve done worse than we should have done… If ever you did not want to have an outbreak of any sort in a certain condition, it would be in a condition where there was intense divisiveness in society, which is what we have. There’s red states and blue states that are almost hostile to each other in some respects because of political differences. I think that’s the worst possible ingredients to be able to address an outbreak of an infection that even under the best of circumstances would be a formidable challenge.”
Former president Donald Trump was often at loggerheads with public health experts as well as his own advisors on the coronavirus taskforce. The administration has also been criticized for repeatedly undermining the CDC and the guidelines issued by it to tackle the pandemic. Under the Trump administration, for example, wearing a face mask reportedly became more of a political statement rather than a public health measure.
Dr Fauci, who was part of Trump’s Covid-19 task force, also blamed the mixed signals that one got from the White House under the Trump administration. “You can’t deny that where you have the medical people saying ‘please adhere to these guidelines,’ and then you have the (former) President (Trump) saying, ‘liberate Virginia, liberate Michigan.’ That’s not helpful,” he said.
Several states also disregarded the task force’s phased recommendations on how to safely reopen the country post lockdowns. Dr Fauci referred to that as “incomprehensible to me (when) you could see right in front of your eyes what was happening.” According to him, he had an “abiding faith” in the “American spirit" but “when the American spirit is so divided”, that really made him sad.
“We have a situation where we’ve reached a landmark that is stunning in its magnitude. This is the worst thing that’s happened to this country with regard to the health of the nation in over 100 years. People 20, 30, 40, 50, maybe even 100 years from now, are going to be talking about this, about that horrible year of 2020, and maybe 2021.”
Don’t let your guard down, advise experts
Nationwide, the rates of new Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are declining. However, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the American Nurses Association have asked Americans to continue to be careful. “We urge you to remain vigilant in taking precautions to limit the spread of Covid-19. With new, more contagious variants of the virus circulating throughout the US, now is not the time to let your guard down and scale back on the measures that we know will work to prevent further illness and deaths — wearing masks, practicing physical distancing, and washing hands,” they said in a joint statement.
Other health experts, including Dr Fauci, are also advising that besides getting vaccinated, Americans must continue to follow public health measures to prevent yet another surge. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington warns that the most uncertain driver of the trajectory of the epidemic over the next four months is how individuals will respond to steady declines in daily cases and deaths.
If most individuals remain careful, maintaining mask-wearing until April or longer, the IHME expects that there will be a further 103,000 deaths from February until June 1, leading to a cumulative death total of 589,000. “More rapid increases in mobility or reductions in mask use can easily lead to increasing cases and deaths in many states in April. Managing the epidemic in the next four months depends critically on scaling up vaccination, trying to increase the fraction of adults willing to be vaccinated above three-quarters, and strongly encouraging continued mask use and avoiding situations where transmission is likely, such as indoor dining, going to bars, or indoor gatherings with individuals outside the household,” recommend scientists.