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'Of course not': Fauci says he wouldn't attend Trump rallies as coronavirus spreads

The infectious disease expert was asked about the president's large-scale campaign event set for Tulsa on Saturday.
Image: President Donald Trump is flanked by Dr. Anthony Fauci while speaking about coronavirus vaccine development in the Rose Garden of the White House.
President Donald Trump is flanked by Dr. Anthony Fauci while speaking about coronavirus vaccine development in the Rose Garden of the White House.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says he wouldn’t personally attend any upcoming rallies that President Donald Trump plans to hold for his 2020 re-election campaign because the coronavirus is still spreading.

"I'm in a high-risk category. Personally, I would not. Of course not," Fauci, who’s 79, said in an interview with The Daily Beast on Tuesday.

He added about Trump campaign rallies, "outside is better than inside, no crowd is better than crowd" and “crowd is better than big crowd.”

Trump is scheduled to host his first campaign rally in months on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, inside of the city's BOK Center, which can hold more than 19,000 people. The president claimed Monday that 1 million people had requested tickets to the event.

Senior officials said Monday that hand sanitizer and face masks will be offered to all attendees, though not necessarily required. They will also have their temperatures taken before entering the arena.

Some Tulsa officials have been warning Trump that the rally could worsen a current spike in coronavirus cases and local newspaper Tulsa World published an editorial titled, "This is the wrong time and Tulsa is the wrong place for the Trump rally." Meanwhile, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, is expected to visit the White House this week, ahead of the rally, to discuss reopening the economy.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he's still worried about the uptick in COVID-19 cases in some states across the country. “We are seeing infections to a greater degree than they had previously seen in certain states, including states in the southwest and in the south," he said.

A key member of the president's coronavirus task force, Fauci also said in an interview Tuesday with NPR's "1A" on WAMU in Washington, D.C., that he hasn’t spoken with Trump in two weeks. He said that he spoke with him "two weeks ago" and the conversation was about “vaccine development efforts.”

Asked for a response to Fauci’s latest interviews, the White House defended the current phased reopenings that it has been pushing without addressing Fauci directly.

"As the president has said, the cure cannot be worse than the disease and that is why all 50 states have begun the process of a phased reopening," said White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere. "As this continues, the American people will use what they have learned about COVID-19 and take the appropriate precautions, such as social distancing, facial coverings, and regularly washing hands, to protect the public health and return us to a growing economy."

Kristen Welker contributed.