(L-R) U.S. President Donald Trump and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci arrive for a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in the press briefing room of the White House on March 26, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
President Donald Trump hasn’t attended a coronavirus task force meeting in “several months,” even as new cases in the U.S. continue to climb, White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday.
Led by Vice President Mike Pence, the task force used to meet every day in the first months of the pandemic, but that’s been scaled back to virtual meetings once a week, he said.
“We certainly interact with the vice president at the task force meetings, and the vice president makes our feelings and what we talk about there known to the president,” Fauci told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd when asked about the last time Trump has attended a meeting with the nation’s leading public health experts.
Fauci’s remarks echo those of Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health who also sits on the task force. Collins told NPR in an interview published Monday that Trump has primarily received his information from Pence and coronavirus advisor Scott Atlas.
“I definitely don’t have his ear as much as Scott Atlas right now. That has been a changing situation,” Fauci told MSNBC when asked about how often he briefs the president. Atlas, who is not an infectious disease specialist, has reportedly pushed the herd immunity strategy, which Fauci has criticized, saying it would cause a lot of unnecessary deaths.
On Sunday, Twitter removed a tweet by Atlas, who had written “Masks work? NO.” The social media platform said the tweet violated the platform’s policy on coronavirus misinformation.
“The President is routinely briefed about the coronavirus each and every day. The relevant information is brought to him on the big decisions, and then he moves forward in the way that’s best for our country,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews told CNBC in a statement.
Trump has publicly ridiculed Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, and called him “a disaster” and possibly “an idiot” during a call with the staff of his reelection campaign on Monday.
“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong,” Trump said on the call.
Trump has insisted that states continue to reopen their economies, even as daily cases continue to climb to highs last reported over the summer when cases surged across America’s Sun Belt states.
The U.S. is now averaging roughly 61,100 new coronavirus cases every day, a more than 14% increase compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.
During the final debate on Thursday, Trump said the U.S. is “rounding the corner” in the outbreak, despite warnings from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield, who said on Wednesday that the U.S. is “approaching a critical phase.”
— CNBC’s Dan Mangan contributed to this report.