Fauci Says If He Had to Pick 'Worst Time' for an Outbreak It Would Be Now

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious diseases expert, has lived through many outbreaks, but divisiveness and the ability for misinformation to spread make the current situation with the coronavirus one of the "worst" times for a pandemic.

Officials have been raising concerns about misinformation spreading since the start of the health crisis, and there are disagreements about what even constitutes misinformation. Social media companies have struggled to find the proper balance between censorship and putting out falsehoods, and Fauci noted that people are drawing a "false equivalency" with regard to their sources.

"When you get into an argument [it becomes] false equivalency," Fauci told Canadian Broadcasting Corp. host Nahlah Ayed. "'You know, a Nobel laureate who discovered this says this. But Joe Johns on their Facebook said that."

This equivalence, Fauci said, "has to be frightening because it's happening."

Fauci, who took over as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 1984, began advising presidents when former President Ronald Reagan took office. He's continued to do so for the past 40 years, during which time he's experienced the AIDS epidemic, SARS, Ebola and numerous other outbreaks.

anthony fauci pandemic covid-19
Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a recent Canadian Broadcasting Corp. interview if he had to pick the "worst time" for a pandemic to occur, it would be now. Above, Fauci arrives to testify before the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on July 20. Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Having been in the middle of "some of the worst outbreaks of infectious diseases in history," Fauci told Ayed on her radio show Ideas that America has been in the "worst possible environment" for a pandemic to emerge. Citing the "anti-science" and "complete normalization of lies" that pervades society, Fauci called the current state of affairs "disturbing" to him as a public health expert and scientist.

"It is just mind-boggling. I mean, if I were some diabolical, evil spirit and I wanted to cast upon the world the worst time to get an outbreak, it's when you have this kind of combination of divisiveness with the complete accessibility and spread of complete falsehood. There is nothing worse than that in the middle of a pandemic," Fauci told Ayed.

America leads in cases and deaths, and more than 45 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began. Experts believe the true case count is likely higher than what's been reported, since some people may have had mild symptoms and never got tested. Or they were infected but asymptomatic, giving them no reason to suspect they'd need a test.

Misinformation has helped fuel vaccine hesitancy, with some believing the shots contain a microchip or cause COVID-19. While some previously skeptical people have gotten vaccinated, officials have struggled to significantly motivate people who are hesitant about vaccination to get the shot.

The problem is achieving herd immunity and eliminating the virus' ability to spread and mutate, so officials and public health experts have been urging those who did get vaccinated to talk with the people in their lives who haven't, in an attempt to persuade them.

Fauci acknowledged that people have personal liberties they should be in control of, but he said people need to make the decision that's for the "greater good of society."