Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the nation's leading voices on the coronavirus pandemic, said Thursday that the U.S. is not "doing great" in its response to the virus compared to other countries.
"As a country, when you compare us to other countries, I don't think you can say we're doing great. I mean, we're just not," Fauci said in an interview with FiveThirtyEight. Although Fauci noted that some cities like New York City have seen improvement, several other states are seeing a dramatic spike in coronavirus cases.
Fauci attributed COVID surges in states to their decisions to reopen too quickly. On Thursday, California, Florida and Texas reported their largest single-day death tolls since the pandemic began.
"There are some times when despite the guidelines and the recommendations to open up carefully and prudently, some states skipped over those and just opened up too quickly," Fauci said. "Certainly Florida I know, you know, I think jumped over a couple of checkpoints."
In an interview with the Financial Times published on Friday morning, Fauci said that the U.S. has a "serious ongoing problem" with the coronavirus.
Fauci's tone contradicts that of President Trump, who has sought to downplay the dangers of the virus and insisted that the government response has been sufficient. In a speech on July 4, Mr. Trump said that 99% of COVID-19 cases were "harmless."
"I'm trying to figure out where the president got that number. What I think happened is that someone told him that the general mortality is about 1%. And he interpreted, therefore, that 99% is not a problem, when that's obviously not the case," Fauci told FT about Mr. Trump's comments.
Fauci also said that the virus "can make you seriously ill," contradicting Mr. Trump's claim in an interview with Fox News anchor Sean Hannity on Thursday that people "automatically get better" in most cases.
"Literally, in most cases, they automatically cure. They automatically get better," Mr. Trump claimed.
Earlier this week, Mr. Trump said he disagreed with an assessment from Fauci that the U.S. is still "knee deep" in the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic and must confront the "serious situation" immediately.
"I think we are in a good place," Mr. Trump told Greta Van Susteren in an interview set to air Sunday. "I disagree with him. You know, Dr. Fauci said 'don't wear masks,' and now he says 'wear them.' And you know, he's said numerous things, 'don't close off China. Don't ban China.' And I did it anyway. I sort of didn't listen to my experts and I banned China."
Fauci told FT that he has not spoken to the president in over a month.