Donald Trump accused Anthony Fauci, a leading member of the White House coronavirus task force, of trying to “play all sides” after the infectious disease expert raised concerns about states that prematurely open their economies.
Trump on Wednesday targeted Dr. Fauci when asked if he shared the cautious stance the doctor, who has headed the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases since 1984, gave to Congress on Tuesday.
“He wants to play all sides of the equation,” said Trump. Asked to explain his criticisms, the president added: “I was surprised at his response. . . It is not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools. “
Tuesday dr. Fauci told Congress that states that did not follow White House approved guidelines for reopening ran a “real risk of triggering an outbreak that you may not be able to control.” This, he said, could eventually delay the reopening of the American economy and lead to avoidable “suffering and death”.
Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican Senator, said the United States would make a “huge mistake” if they didn’t reopen schools in the fall after the summer holidays.
But Dr. Fauci said, “We’d better be careful. . . thinking that children are completely immune to deleterious effects [of coronavirus]”.
Dr. Fauci noted that U.S. studies have found evidence of negative impacts on children, including an inflammatory disorder similar to Kawasaki syndrome, which had not been detected in studies in China or Europe.
Dr. Fauci has distinguished himself as the only member of the task force who is willing to contradict Trump, even when he spoke alongside the president during the daily press meetings that Trump has held until relatively recently.
Speaking on Wednesday when he met the governors of Colorado and North Dakota in the White House, Trump said that states should move to open their schools because Covid-19 has had “very little impact” on young people.
“I think you should definitely open schools. Our country has to come back and has to come back as soon as possible, and I don’t consider our country to come back if the schools are closed, “said Trump.
Experts say that children can pass the disease on to older and more vulnerable people even if they themselves show limited or absent symptoms.
Trump’s criticisms of Dr. Fauci have come as states debate how quickly and aggressively they should reopen their economies as the U.S. unemployment rate has risen to 14.7 percent.
Trump has taken an uneven approach by criticizing some governors for moving too quickly, accusing some Democrats of being slow because he said growing unemployment will harm his election campaign.
“Some governors and perhaps some partisans perhaps for electoral reasons don’t want to… Their states open up,” he said.
Larry Hogan, Republican governor of Maryland, on Wednesday announced that the state would revoke its residence order on Friday after meeting federal guidelines that states should begin phase one of the reopening only after new coronavirus cases they fell for 14 days.
In the District of Columbia, however, Mayor Muriel Bowser cited Dr. Fauci’s warning about opening too quickly in extending the stay order until June 8.
In Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court ruled that the administration of Tony Evers, the Democratic governor, had overtaken his authority when he extended a blocking order until the end of May. Wisconsin is one of the critical states in the presidential election.
Follow Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter: @dimi