WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday pushed back on President Donald Trump's false claims that the U.S. coronavirus death toll is "exaggerated."
"The numbers are real," Fauci, one of the nation’s foremost infectious disease experts, said during an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press." "We have well over 300,000 deaths. We are averaging two- to three thousand deaths per day."
He told host Chuck Todd, "All you need to do, Chuck, is to go into the trenches, go into the hospitals, go into the intensive care units and see what is happening. Those are real numbers, real people and real deaths."
Fauci’s interview came in response to Trump tweeting, "The number of cases and deaths of the China Virus is far exaggerated in the United States because of [The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] ridiculous method of determination compared to other countries, many of whom report, purposely, very inaccurately and low."
Trump responded to Fauci by tweeting, "Something how Dr. Fauci is revered by the LameStream Media as such a great professional, having done, they say, such an incredible job, yet he works for me and the Trump Administration, and I am in no way given any credit for my work. Gee, could this just be more Fake News?"
December was the most deadly and infectious month of the pandemic in the United States: More than 77,000 people died and 6.4 million contracted the virus over the month, according to an NBC News analysis. Overall, more than 350,000 people have died from the virus and almost 20.5 million people have been infected.
Fauci said Sunday that the pandemic "could and likely will get worse in the next couple of weeks" or "at least maintain this terribly high level of infections and deaths" in the coming weeks as the United States feels the full effects of travel during the Christmas holiday.
"This is what happens. It’s terrible, it’s unfortunate, but it was predictable," he said.
"Rather than sit back and throw up our hands and say, 'Oh my goodness, it’s getting worse,' we need to double down on some of the fundamental things that we talk about all the time, Chuck: the uniform wearing of masks, the physical distancing and the avoiding of congregate settings and crowds, particularly indoors," Fauci said.
Now that two vaccines have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use, there are concerns that the country is not ramping up its vaccination program fast enough. While Fauci admitted the country is "somewhat behind," he preached patience as the program ramps up.
"No excuses, we are not where we want to be. But hopefully, we’ll pick up some momentum and get back to where we want to be in regard to getting it into people’s arms," he said.