President Donald Trump wears a face mask as he walks down a hallway during a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. File picture: Patrick Semansky/AP
President Donald Trump wears a face mask as he walks down a hallway during a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. File picture: Patrick Semansky/AP

Fauci praises Donald Trump’s about-turn on masks, Covid-19 policy

By DPA Time of article published Jul 24, 2020

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By Shabtai Gold

Washington - US President Donald Trump is correctly shifting his policy and rhetoric on the coronavirus response, the government's top infectious diseases expert said on Friday, noting in particular the push for mask usage.

Anthony Fauci said it appeared to him that Trump was having a "realization of the reality that is going on" with the surging number of coronavirus cases across parts of the country.

"He is adjusting to that now and acting accordingly," Fauci said in an interview with Fox News. "The president has come around now on wearing a mask ... I think we are moving in a really good direction."

Trump long resisted pushing for widespread mask usage, but recently visited a military hospital and did a photo-op while wearing a face covering, in a sharp transition to a new policy position.

Dr Anthony Fauci, centre, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks as Vice President Mike Pence, right, and Dr. Deborah Birx, left, listen during a news conference with members of the Coronavirus Task Force at the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington. File picture: Susan Walsh/AP

He has also restarted regular briefings on the virus, while being more sober on the extent of the virus spread. His last round of briefings, which ended in early May, were often rambling and gaffe prone, including the promotion of unproven medical advice.

In a second interview, on a webcast with the Washington Post newspaper, Fauci said Trump's briefings this week were more on-point and "helpful" to getting out a message of stressing mask usage and avoiding crowds.

"They are short and crisp, which is helpful in getting a message out," Fauci said of the new briefings.

Trump's polling on the virus has been slipping in recent weeks, with just 100 days to go until the election in November, as he seeks a second and final four-year term in the White House. His rival, Democratic candidate Joe Biden, is leading in opinion surveys.

Advisers pushed for the president to go back to holding briefings, while keeping them more focused, suggesting people wanted to see him leading on the health crisis, which is the top issue for voters.

The president on Thursday said he was cancelling his Republican Party's national convention next month in Florida, amid surges in the southern state.

Fauci, who at times has appeared to have a contentious relationship with Trump over the push to reopen the country quickly, insisted he is on good terms with the president.

"I had a nice long conversation with the president just a few days ago," Fauci said. "It was constructive it was good ... we have a good relationship."

The US had more than 4 million coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. In the past few weeks, the number of daily new infections is almost regularly double the peak numbers reached back in April, indicating a resurgent problem.

Fauci also said a coronavirus vaccine will likely be "widely available" in the US several months into 2021. Once a vaccine is deemed safe, some tens of millions of doses would be produced and later in the year hundreds of millions of doses would be available.

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