The United States’ top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, has described President Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon calling for his beheading as “unusual” amid the “very stressful” coronavirus environment in the US.
The White House coronavirus task force member and director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases made the comments when he appeared on ABC’s 7.30 on Wednesday night.
Almost 240,000 people have died in the US from COVID-19 and the country is reporting record daily case totals above 120,000.
Host Leigh Sales asked: “What has this been like for you as a human being?”
“Well, it has been very stressful,” Dr Fauci replied.
“To deny that would be to deny reality when you have public figures like Bannon calling for your beheading, that’s really kind of unusual.
“That’s not the kind of thing that you think about when you go through medical school, to become a physician.
“But I’ve gotten through it by really focusing like a laser beam on what my goal is. I am a scientist and I am a physician.
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“My goal is to help develop vaccines. I think we have been successful in that. Now the next challenge is to develop good therapeutics and the other challenge is to get public health measures to be listened to by the American public.
“If you focus on that and don’t get distracted by all the other noise, then it is not as bad as you might think it is.
“It is when you start to focus on that other junk, as I call it, it is noise. It is meaningless. People calling for you to be beheaded, fired, thrown in the fire pit. That’s just noise. You don’t pay attention to that.”
Former Trump aide Steve Bannon was banned from Twitter and Facebook last week after a horrific segment on his podcast War Room: Pandemic.
Bannon said he wanted to go “back to the old times of Tudor England” where it would’ve been acceptable for the heads of Dr Anthony Fauci and FBI director Christopher Wray be put on pikes outside the White House.
Earlier in the interview, Sales asked “how much culpability” President Trump carried for the number of coronavirus deaths in the US.
“I’m not going to get into any political discussions, I can guarantee that,” Dr Fauci replied.
The 79-year-old has worked under six presidents and in 2021, Democrat Joe Biden will be the seventh.
Prior to the presidential election, won by Mr Biden, President Trump hinted that he wanted Dr Fauci fired.
A “Fire Fauci” chant broke out at a Trump rally at Opa-Locka Airport.
Mr Trump replied to the crowd: “Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election.”
Speaking in Ohio in early November, Mr Biden said: “I’ll hire Dr Fauci … and fire Trump!”
Mr Trump is yet to concede defeat in the presidential election.
On Wednesday, Sales asked Dr Fauci whether he’d had any discussions yet with President-elect Biden or his team “regarding pandemic policy under the incoming administration”.
“Right now, the situation as you well know is a rather tense situation in the United States regarding transitions,” he said.
“So right now things are on hold for the time being.”
Dr Fauci said he would like to see adherence “uniformly throughout the country” to the universal wearing of face masks, keeping physical distance, avoiding large crowds or gatherings, trying to do more outdoors and people washing their hands.
“We’re going through a very difficult situation,” he said.
“Every day we seem to be setting another record.”
In regards to “lockdowns”, he said that approach would be “almost the last resort”.
But he noted Australia was an example of a “very successful result of a lockdown” and now “at a very good baseline”.
“We know there is a considerable amount of COVID-19 fatigue globally and certainly in the United States,” Dr Fauci told the ABC.
“I don’t think that would be well received. I don’t think you need to lockdown. I think people have a misperception that when you say, ‘Wear masks, avoid crowds, keep your distance’ that that means locking down. It doesn’t.
“You can keep small and large businesses open so long as you implement certain fundamental public health practices.”
US AWAITS SECOND VACCINE CANDIDATE RESULTS
Sales asked when Dr Fauci “realistically” expects mass vaccinations in the US, following the news from Pfizer and BioNTech that their vaccine candidate has at least 90 per cent efficacy.
Dr Fauci said it will be a “gradual process” but he expects vaccinations to start next month – “likely before the Christmas holidays”.
He told CNN earlier this week he expected low-risk Americans to receive the jab by April 2021, and those deemed to be at a higher risk to receive it earlier.
“The thing that we have been dealing with in this country is a vaccine hesitancy or people really being sceptical about getting vaccinated,” he told 7.30.
“That is pretty much overcome when you get a vaccine of such high degree of efficacy as the Pfizer vaccine which is 90 plus, closer to 95 per cent efficacious.
“I think those types of numbers with no concerning safety signal hopefully will get many, many more people than you would have predicted get vaccinated.”
Dr Fauci said it was important to note the Pfizer vaccine is not the only one being tested in the US at present and other results are imminent.
“There is another one very close behind made by a company called Moderna which is a similar to, if not identical, candidate with an mRNA.
“We likely will see results from them probably sometime I would think in the next two weeks, or two-and-a-half to three weeks, which means you will have two companies that will have vaccine available.”