WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday criticized comments Dr. Anthony Fauci made during a congressional hearing about the risks of reopening the country too soon as "not an acceptable answer."
"I was surprised by his answer, actually, because, you know, to me it's not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools," Trump said during a meeting Wednesday afternoon with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis in the Cabinet Room of the White House.
"He wants to play all sides of the equation," Trump said of Fauci before emphasizing his confidence that the economy would quickly rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.
"I think we're going to have a tremendous fourth quarter," Trump said.
Trump has repeatedly contradicted Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, painting an overly rosy picture of a country that he says is ready to begin to return to normal.
Testifying by videoconference Tuesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Fauci warned of serious consequences if governors reopen state economies too soon.
"My concern — that if some areas, city, states or what have you jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently — my concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks," Fauci said in response to a question from Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the committee.
Trump, however, pushed for schools to reopen, telling reporters Wednesday, "I think they should open the schools, absolutely."
"Our country has to get back, and it has to get back as soon as possible, and I don't consider our country coming back if the schools are closed," he added.
Fauci sounded a note of caution about reopening schools in the fall, telling senators that "we just have to see on a step-by-step basis, as we get into the period of time with the fall about reopening the schools, exactly where we will be in the dynamics of the outbreak." He said that because the pandemic is affecting regions differently, "it's not going to be universally or homogeneous."
Download the NBC News app for full coverage and alerts about the coronavirus outbreak
In a taped interview with Fox Business Network, a clip of which was released Wednesday, Trump said: "Anthony is a good person, a very good person. I've disagreed with him. I totally disagree with him on schools."
California State University, the country’s largest four-year university system, announced Tuesday that nearly all on-campus classes would be canceled for the fall semester and would take place online, instead. Other colleges and universities are considering moving fall classes online, too.
"Now, will you have an incident?" Trump asked, acknowledging the possibility that reopening schools could come at a cost.
"Will something happen? Perhaps. But you can be driving to school and something can happen, too," he said.