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Fauci says as coronavirus infections swell, federal task force is meeting just weekly

The infectious diseases doctor who has become a central figure in the pandemic told MSNBC the frequency of meetings has "diminished" over time.
Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a Senate hearing in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 23, 2020.Graeme Jennings / AP file

Despite an increase in the number of coronavirus cases across the country — including a record-setting 77,000 cases Thursday — Dr. Anthony Fauci told MSNBC that the coronavirus task force now meets only weekly.

In an interview Friday with MTP Daily's Chuck Todd, Fauci said the task force meetings with the government's top scientists and health officials "have diminished" in recent months as the White House has focused more on reopening the country.

"We're averaging right now about one a week," Fauci said - a significant reduction from earlier this year, when the death toll exploded in the Northeast.

"We used to have them during the real, you know the early spring, when things were really hot, particularly the northeastern part, when New York was having a terrible time, we were meeting, you know, five, six, sometimes seven days a week, that then sometime a few months ago things pivoted around to more of the economic reopening, as it were, of the country," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said.

Asked when he'd last spoken directly to the president, who's repeatedly criticized him in recent days and called him a "disaster," Fauci said, "I have not done that in a while."

Fauci said he was "concerned" by the high number of infections reported Thursday.

"That is a precarious place to be for a number of reasons," he said, adding that several states "are having upticks in case positivities, which are in fact leading to increases in hospitalizations, which will ultimately lead to an increase in deaths."

He called for "doubling down on some of the fundamental public health measures” to stop the problem from getting worse, including universal mask wearing and avoiding crowds. "We're not talking about shutting down" but "you can do public health things that work."

Fauci indicated that Trump is seeking medical advice from other sources. Asked by Todd if the president is more reliant on Dr. Scott Atlas than him, Fauci said yes.

Atlas, a neuroradiologist who isn't an expert in infectious diseases, became the president's Covid-19 adviser after appearances on Fox News. He has pushed more aggressively to reopen sectors of the economy, and is regularly seen at the White House without a mask. Twitter removed his tweet earlier this week that falsely claimed masks don't help stop the spread of the virus.

"I definitely don’t have his ear as much as Scott Atlas right now," Fauci said. He added that he believed the head of the coronavirus task force, Vice President Mike Pence, "makes our feelings in what we talk about known to the president."