Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top public health official, said that President Donald Trump has followed his advice about advising lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, clarifying recent comments that were taken in some circles as criticism of the president.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was asked during an appearance on CNNs “State of the Union” on Sunday whether “lives could have been saved” if the federal government recommended social distancing measures starting in February, as opposed to March.
“Its very difficult to go back and say that. I mean, obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing, and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that,” Fauci responded.
“But what goes into those kinds of decisions is—is complicated. But youre right. I mean, obviously, if we had, right from the very beginning, shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then,” he added.
A number of outlets took the comments as criticism of Trump, prompting Fauci to clarify them during the White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting on Monday.
“I was asked a hypothetical question. Hypothetical questions sometimes can get you into some difficulty because its what would have or could have,” Fauci told reporters in Washington.
While earlier mitigation would have been helpful, Fauci said he was not trying to imply that someone was at fault.
He said Trump has listened the five times Fauci and other health officials have made strong recommendations—once in March for social distancing measures, again in April when they recommended an extension of the measures, and the three times they recommended travel bans, including the January ban on most travel from China.
Despite concern from others about possible negative consequences of the decisions, Trump made all five recommended orders, Fauci stressed.
“Obviously there would be concern by some that in fact that might have some negative consequences. Nonetheless, the president listened to the recommendation and went to the mitigation,” he said, referring to a March conversation between him, Trump, and Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator of the task force.
When Fauci and Birx approached Trump and said the original 15 days werent enough, Trump listened.