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Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said Monday that President Donald Trump’s gathering to celebrate the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett was the type of “dangerous situation” medical officials have long warned could become the new COVID-19 superspreader events.
“As you might know, I have been very vocal and visible about the fundamental tenets of public health with coronavirus, and that is universal wearing of masks, keeping distance, avoiding crowds, doing things outdoor more than indoor, and washing hands frequently,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Britain’s Times Radio on Monday.
The September 26 ceremony to celebrate Barrett’s nomination to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has come under intense scrutiny after at least nine attendees have tested positive for COVID-19, including President Trump himself. Very few of those gathered at the event, which was held in the White House Rose Garden, were wearing masks. Trump then met with smaller groups of people indoors, again without face coverings, which Fauci and other experts have warned could lead to outbreaks of the virus.
“When I see pictures like that, not only there but anywhere, people who are in bars congregating, people who are at parties congregating without masks, that is a dangerous situation that can lead to a high risk of transmissibility, and, unfortunately, and I say really, unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened during that meeting that was had to celebrate the appointment of a Supreme Court justice,” Fauci said Monday.
He added that it was still undetermined if the White House meeting was a superspreader event but noted that he agreed “it looks like that could have been an event where there was multiple people infected.”
The doctor has been a regular voice of reason throughout the pandemic, warning Americans to socially distance and don masks even as the president and many Republican leaders have instead declared the country had largely moved past the coronavirus in their efforts to restart the economy.
But those plans were thrown into chaos last week after Trump tested positive for the virus and was transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The status of the president’s health has been unclear since: His medical team has repeatedly said he’s doing “very well,” but there have been several troubling signs that Trump may have symptoms of a more serious infection.
Despite those concerns, Trump left Walter Reed on Monday evening and has said Americans should not be scared of the virus that has killed more than 210,000 people in the U.S.
“Don’t be afraid of COVID,” the president wrote. “Don’t let it dominate your life.”