Fauci Says Trump 'Is Trying to Keep the Spirits up of People in the Country' by Saying U.S. Is Doing Well

Leading infectious disease expert and White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he believes President Donald Trump is trying to keep people's spirits up by stating that the country is dealing well with the coronavirus.

In an interview on PBS' Amanpour and Company on Wednesday, journalist Walter Isaacson asked Fauci why he believes Trump has said the country is doing well on testing and the disease compared with other countries. The data on the pandemic paints a different picture. According to Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. is the country with the most confirmed cases, at 4.8 million of the total 18.8 million. The country has also recorded the most deaths, at over 158,000 of more than 707,700 worldwide.

Trump has repeatedly said the U.S has as a higher number of coronavirus cases because it tests many people. The president made such claims in an Axios interview on Monday, where he also said the U.S. coronavirus deaths were "lower than the world."

However, experts say the positive rate—or the number which come back positive—is a more useful measure of a country's success against an infectious disease like the coronavirus. According to Our World In Data, the U.S.'s positivity rate was 8.3 percent as of Wednesday. The World Health Organization recommends the figure should remain below 5 percent for at least 14 days before a region can consider easing restrictions or start reopening.

Fauci, who has been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, said: "as the president he's trying to keep the spirits up of people in the country, and saying we're doing well. In some aspects if you look at some of the curves they're going down but as public health officials we look at the whole picture. And it's a serious situation that you've got to address in a very serious way."

In the last 14 days, hotspots such as Florida, Texas, California, and Arizona have seen cases fall, while they have increased in states such as Oklahoma, Missouri, and Nebraska, according to The New York Times. On Wednesday, Florida reported more than 500,000 total cases, a milestone previously held only by similarly badly hit California. The states now make up almost a quarter of the country's total cases.

Asked if he thought the coronavirus pandemic was addressed nationally in a very serious way, Fauci said the country had had some significant issues and did not succeed in getting the baseline number of new cases per day to a "very low level." The U.S. instead tried to re-open the economy at a plateau of 20,000 cases per day, with some people following guidelines on preventing the disease spreading correctly, and others "essentially letting caution to the wind."

Cases then started to increase, reaching 70,000 cases per day at several points. "That is not good by anybody's definition," he said. "We've got to get that down and when we do we'll find that it's going to be easier for us to prudently and carefully get back to some form of normality."

Over the past week, the U.S. has averaged 56,966 cases per day, a decrease of 14 percent from two weeks prior, according to The Times.

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U.S. President Donald Trump is flanked by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases while speaking about coronavirus vaccine development in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 15, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty Images