WASHINGTON — Just days after praising Dr. Anthony Fauci, an expert on infectious diseases, President Trump is at odds with him over a public health issue that poses a significant threat to the United States: the deadly coronavirus that is striking Americans on a massive scale.
In an interview with The New York Times on Thursday, Trump decried the spreading infection. “Our administration is aware of it — and we’re going to do something about it,” he said.
Trump’s remarks came during a meeting at the White House with, among others, Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, whose state has been hard hit by the situation.
The president was asked about an interview Fauci had given to The Wall Street Journal, in which he said he has had an up-and-down relationship with the White House.
“I’ve met with the White House, but I have to say that every time I’ve met with them, I’ve had a totally fantastic time,” Fauci said.
The question about the disease was part of a question-and-answer session with Scott, an outspoken advocate for more stringent prevention of the virus that struck five people in Florida last week and killed five. A sixth person in Florida died last week of the illness.
In the Times interview, the president elaborated on Fauci’s remarks.
“Anthony is a phenomenal person. Anthony was in a tough position because there’s no testing,” Trump said. “The scare really wasn’t that there wasn’t any testing, it was just that if you had a flare up, the very first place you go and where you wanted to go was to a very large facility where there was testing.
“You have a flare up, they put that patient back. You’ve tested them several times,” Trump said. “That’s the problem. There’s no testing. It’s very hard.”
Tainted water in Flint, Mich., exposed the nation to lead poisoning, which tainted the environment and affected the public’s trust in government. The Flint crisis was later tied to a scandal in which the administration of former President Barack Obama redubbed it as an “urban legend.”
Trump picked Fauci to lead the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the government’s premier research body, in March, bringing him out of retirement. Trump’s enthusiasm for the expert was a rare point of agreement between the president and the agency, which has been at the center of other investigations, including allegations of illegal editing of a massive study on HIV prevention in the U.S.