https://newsbusters.org/blogs/nb/curtis-houck/2021/01/27/let-me-finish-fncs-sandra-smith-battles-dr-fauci-over-masks-school

For those that had to yet to be convinced, January 2021 revealed chief White House medical advisor Dr. Tony Fauci to be a man of both medicine and politics. Fauci has repeatedly taken digs at the Trump administration (and thus the men and women he worked with) while, at other times, claiming he’s only interested in looking forward. 

Wednesday afternoon on the Fox News Channel, America Reports co-host John Roberts and, to a greater extent, Sandra Smith grilled Fauci on attacks against Operation War Speed, masks, New York’s coronavirus response, school closings, and struggling restaurants.

The 14-minute interview began with a call for more information about the South African and U.K. strains of COVID-19, but the questions became tougher when Roberts pointed out that Fauci’s own rhetoric lamenting the state of vaccine distribution ran counter to what he was saying under Donald Trump.

Citing “a comprehensive plan developed by” the Trump team, Roberts asked: “[I]f they were a mess, you were part of that team, so what was in place at that time?”

Unlike his comments to Rachel Maddow or White House reporters, Fauci insisted: “I really don’t want to go back and rehash that. That is not productive.”

Smith then called out states like New York for continuing to enforce coronavirus restrictions that “boggles many” as the measures were inflicting “incredible pain on small businesses, restaurateurs” and asked Fauci if he “see[s] any reason why the New York governor shouldn’t allow for in-person dining to reopen with those statistics.”

Fauci was not pleased in the slightest, taking Smith’s question and lamenting that she would go after Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY). Smith upped the ante by bringing the insanity of continued school closures in cities like Chicago, Illinois into the equation, which also incensed Fauci (click “expand”):

FAUCI: You know, I have to tell you, I’m not going to be out here, outguessing a governor who is on the ground in his or her own state —

SMITH: But those are statistics. I mean —

FAUCI:  — no, no. We’re not going to go there. I’m not going to be outguessing individual governors.

SMITH: — okay, how about — fine, so you don’t want to go there, but what about school closures? Chicago won’t reopen their schools. I mean, you’ve talked about — kids are not passing this disease inside the classrooms when they are following CDC guidelines. 

FAUCI: Well —

SMITH: So shouldn’t they reopen schools in Chicago, for example?

FAUCI:  Well, what I’m going to tell you are the general principles, and each individual state, with their governor, city with their mayor, will make their own decisions. The first thing —

SMITH: But —

FAUCI: — I would — let me just finish, let me just comment —

SMITH: Sir, go ahead.

FAUCI: — and see if I can help you out —

SMITH: Please.

FAUCI: — to be able to understand the bigger picture. That, yes, I understand greatly the strain that is on local businesses and restaurants and others, that that’s the reason why we need help. We need to be able to get resources that if indoor dining is going to be prohibited, we’ve got to have help to the owners of those organizations so they don’t go under during a period of time when we’re trying to correct and get our arms around this outbreak. 

Smith followed up: “But we’re supposed to be following the science, and I think that’s the problem. Does the science say that kids can safely be back in the classroom if they’re following CDC guidance?”

Fauci insisted that his position hasn’t changed (and neither has the CDC’s) and that schools can reopen so long as they’re “following the CDC guidelines,” but he actually adopted the position of teachers unions by stating that reopening “may require additional resources” (which can only be seen as money, such as that put forth in Biden’s $1.9 trillion package).

Roberts sought to cool the temperature by asking questions about the World Health Organization and vaccine exports, which led to Fauci offering what may have been a back-handed slight at Smith: “Well John, thank you for posing the question in that way, and I hopefully get a clear explanation.”

Roberts had one last query (pertaining to when we’ll reach herd immunity with vaccinations), but on either side of him were two more hardballs from Smith. 

The first slammed public health experts for “moving” “the goalposts” on things like masks, which led to Fauci offering an Orwellian line that “the discussion is changing, not the goalposts.”

The other? Smith dared to try again with the pain restaurants are facing with recent shutdowns (click “expand”):

SMITH: Dr. Fauci, it also seems like the goal posts keep moving. You know, we know California is having problems. We’re talking about additional strains. And all of us are trying to do what it takes to stay safe And we all wear our masks, and we hope that most people are wearing their masks, but now we’re hearing we should wear two. Where do you stand on that, do I — if I go to the grocery store, do I wear two? Do I wear three? Is it safer to wear eight? Where does it stop?

FAUCI: The discussion is changing, not the goal posts. So, the CDC doesn’t officially recommend wearing double masks.

SMITH:  Okay.

FAUCI:  What they’re saying is, you know what would be a good start, if everybody wears at least one mask. I think that would be important. So the CDC recommendations have not changed. What we’re trying to do is to get individuals who are not wearing masks to wear masks. 

(….)

SMITH: Alright, so Dr. Fauci, final – final, because real quick, you just said you talk to Governor Cuomo often. So if he called you today and said I’ve got a positivity rate below one percent, I’ve got a lot of people vaccinated, I — do you think it’s safe to reopen at least for 25 percent capacity in-person dining? What would you tell him?

FAUCI: Well, you know, I would like to hear a little bit more about what’s going on, what the dynamics are. Again, you don’t make policy in a conversation like you and I. What I would be happy to do is, after I have a conversation with the governor, then talk to you about the things we discussed, but I don’t want to do it before I have the conversation.

Despite all this, one can still believe that Fauci’s a good man and a true public servant who’s done an incalculable deal to save American lives over not just this pandemic, but going back through history to medical horrors such as the start of the AIDS epidemic.

That said, Fauci has spent this month showing himself to be, like countless others (and particularly in the Washington D.C. area), a creature of politics. And as much as Fauci might deny that, there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

To see the transcript of the full January 27 interview, click “expand.”

FNC’s America Reports with John Roberts & Sandra Smith
January 27, 2021
2:02 p.m. Eastern

SANDRA SMITH: Joining us now, President Biden’s chief medical adviser on the COVID crisis, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Dr. Fauci, good afternoon, welcome to America Reports. Glad to have you here. 

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Good to be with you. Thank you for having me. 

SMITH: First off, this new strain, we were just talking to our audience about it. How deadly is it? Are we able to detect it? And is it growing in numbers? 

FAUCI:  Well, which one are you talking about, because I just sat down? Are you talking about the South African one? Are you talking –

SMITH: Well, that’s a problem, which one? Okayay, so let’s start with the U.K., let’s start with South Africa. What do we need to be worried about as Americans? What is here right now? 

FAUCI: Well, we need to take it seriously. But the U.K. strain, which is one that has a certain set of mutations, is already in 25 or more states in the United States. It has been shown, according to the work that were done by our colleagues in the U.K, to be more transmissible, mainly more easy to transmit. They at first had said that it was not more lethal, namely that it didn’t cause on a person-to-person basis more serious disease, but just this past week they came out with some new data which indicates that the U.K. strain might in fact be a bit more deadly than what we call the wild type strain. With regard to the vaccines that we’re using, there does not seem to be any negative impact on the ability of the vaccine to be able to protect against the U.K. strain. It’s a bit of a different story with regard to the strain that is now dominant in South Africa, because a number of the monoclonal antibodies that have been used for treatment and prevention don’t work as well against that strain. It has diminished, somewhat, the capability of the vaccine to protect. But — and this is an important but — the vaccine still is effective against this strain that is in South Africa. Having said that, we need to try and stay a few steps ahead of the game, so we are already preparing, in case that mutant A, gets here — which it might already be here — but in case it gets documented to be here and mutates a bit more to evade the protection of the vaccine, we need to be prepared to upgrade the vaccine to allow it to be able to protect. But right now, the vaccines look fine against both the U.K. and the South Africa strain. 

JOHN ROBERTS: Dr. Fauci, you said in the last couple of days that, when it comes to the vaccine, supply will not meet the demand, which is language that’s a lot different than what we saw just a few minutes — months ago in the closing days of the Trump administration. You were part of it back then, I don’t want to go back and rehash the Trump administration, but what I would like to know is, was there, a number of months ago, a comprehensive plan developed by the White House to distribute this vaccine, because a former Obama administration [sic] is saying that things were a mess when the Biden administration took over. If — if they were a mess, you were part of that team, so what was in place at that time?

FAUCI: Yeah, well, John, I really don’t want to go back and rehash that. That is not productive. One of the things that — part of Operation Warp Speed was a plan to be able to get vaccine in what General Perna, Gus Perna, who was in charge of that — get it out in a cadence of getting the vaccine out, getting it shipped, getting it distributed and getting it into the places where it was supposed to be. In the beginning, there was some missteps there, because there was a discrepancy about what was being determined to go out and what was getting into people’s arms. So, right now, what we’re trying to do is to get a broader plan. But a lot of good things did happen with Operation Warp Speed during those months several months ago. Right now, let’s look forward about what the President, President Biden, has said, how we’re going to try and get as many doses into as many people as quickly as we possibly can and that’s why we has his plan, which I want to emphasize, is a floor, not a ceiling, to get 100 million doses into people in the first 100 days.

SMITH: Dr. Fauci, on that note, it boggles many when you see some of the decisions that states — that governors are making on closures. And here in New York, New York City, the positivity rate’s dropped below one percent. Almost 75 percent of hospital workers have received the vaccine, but yet the governor has not indicated that he’s going to reopen restaurants for in-person dining. As you have acknowledged, this is an incredible pain on small businesses, restaurateurs, that can’t operate their businesses inside when it’s 20 degrees and snowing out. Do you see any reason why the New York governor shouldn’t allow for in-person dining to reopen with those statistics?

FAUCI: You know, I have to tell you, I’m not going to be out here, outguessing a governor who is on the ground in his or her own state —

SMITH: But those are statistics. I mean —

FAUCI:  — no, no. We’re not going to go there. I’m not going to be outguessing individual governors.

SMITH: — okay, how about — fine, so you don’t want to go there, but what about school closures? Chicago won’t reopen their schools. I mean, you’ve talked about — kids are not passing this disease inside the classrooms when they are following CDC guidelines. 

FAUCI: Well —

SMITH: So shouldn’t they reopen schools in Chicago, for example?

FAUCI:  Well, what I’m going to tell you are the general principles, and each individual state, with their governor, city with their mayor, will make their own decisions. The first thing —

SMITH: But —

FAUCI: — I would — let me just finish, let me just comment —

SMITH: Sir, go ahead.

FAUCI: — and see if I can help you out —

SMITH: Please.

FAUCI: — to be able to understand the bigger picture. That, yes, I understand greatly the strain that is on local businesses and restaurants and others, that that’s the reason why we need help. We need to be able to get resources that if indoor dining is going to be prohibited, we’ve got to have help to the owners of those organizations so they don’t go under during a period of time when we’re trying to correct and get our arms around this outbreak. 

SMITH: But we’re supposed to be following the science, and I think that’s the problem. 

FAUCI: Right.

SMITH: Does the science say that kids can safely be back in the classroom if they’re following CDC guidance? 

FAUCI: What the — what the science tells us is the following, that children in school right now, it appears that if you follow the safety guidelines of the CDC, that they are less likely to be getting infected than the community rate of infection and that’s the reason why, as President Biden has said, we’re going to try as best as we can, within the framework of following the CDC guidelines, to get children back to school and I’ve been saying that for months and months, that the default position should be, to the best of our ability, provide the resources to the local areas so that children can get back to school, provided they have fundamental safety measures like mask-wearing and things like that. That may require additional resources to the local school districts. 

ROBERTS: Now the default position, Dr. Fauci, of many of the teachers unions appears to be, we’re not going to go back until we’re guaranteed that there is safety, but I know that’s not a discussion that really falls into your area of purview. But what does is the WHO, the World Health Organization. You addressed the WHO last week; you said that the United States was reentering the WHO. You have also said that the United States is going to participate in the vaccine sharing program with the WHO. So a couple of questions. First of all, when it comes to the WHO, are you certain that they are operating as an independent body and not on behalf of China, as was alleged by the last administration? And then secondly, entering the vaccine sharing program, what effect will that have on the United States’ ability to get vaccines out to people when we’re already having problems doing that? 

FAUCI: Well John, thank you for posing the question in that way, and I hopefully get a clear explanation. First of all, if you listened — which I think you did, but if — not everybody had the opportunity to carefully look at the words that I used when I made the announcement that we will be rejoining the WHO. At least twice during that announcement, I made it very clear that we would expect reforms in WHO, and we would take those reforms very seriously. Next, we said we were very much in favor of the investigation of the origins of this virus. So, although we willingly said that we want to rejoin the WHO and be part of the international community, we made it very clear — and I was representing the President on that announcement — that reforms are going to be taken very seriously by us. So that answers your first question. Now, I forgot your second question. 

ROBERTS: It was on — it was on joining the WHO’s vaccine sharing program.

FAUCI: Okay, good.

ROBERTS: We’re having enough trouble in this country getting vaccines to Americans. 

FAUCI: Right.

ROBERTS: If we join this vaccine-sharing program, will that exacerbate the problem? 

FAUCI: Well thank you, John, for asking that question. When we say we’re joining COVAX, we’re not saying that we are going to give them allocations that are our allocations. We said that we would participate in making sure that there’s some equity globally for countries that can’t afford it. There are a number of ways of doing that. One is to provide financial resources to the program to develop vaccines from other companies, or even the companies that we’re dealing with, to be able to get vaccine doses to them. It doesn’t mean we’re going to take the vaccine doses that were allocated to us and give to them. The other thing is, if it turns out that, in our contractual relationships, we overshoot and we have even more vaccine than we can use, there always would be the consideration —

SMITH: That would be a nice problem to have.

FAUCI: — that would be, but that is conceivable that that would happen. So just make sure the American public doesn’t interpret that we’re going to take vaccine that was ready to go to New York and Chicago and give it to somebody else. That’s not what we’re talking about. 

SMITH: Dr. Fauci, it also seems like the goal posts keep moving. You know, we know California is having problems. We’re talking about additional strains. And all of us are trying to do what it takes to stay safe And we all wear our masks, and we hope that most people are wearing their masks, but now we’re hearing we should wear two. Where do you stand on that, do I — if I go to the grocery store, do I wear two? Do I wear three? Is it safer to wear eight? Where does it stop?

FAUCI: The discussion is changing, not the goal posts. So, the CDC doesn’t officially recommend wearing double masks.

SMITH:  Okay.

FAUCI:  What they’re saying is, you know what would be a good start, if everybody wears at least one mask. I think that would be important. So the CDC recommendations have not changed. What we’re trying to do is to get individuals who are not wearing masks to wear masks. 

ROBERTS: Dr. Fauci, can I just get one really quick answer to the following question? Governor Cuomo of New York said today that it’s going to take six to nine months to get everybody vaccinated or at least to the point where you get herd immunity, but he can’t wait that long to open the economy back up. It’s got competing pressures here. What would you suggest?

FAUCI: Well, I think you don’t — you don’t necessarily have to have an all-or-none phenomenon. I speak with Governor Cuomo frequently, and what he is trying to do is to make a balance between what’s best for the public health at the same time as addressing the serious impact that it would have on the economy of New York state and New York City, obviously is an important part of New York state. And what one can do is, you can continue to have public health measures that would be appropriate for the amount of infection at the same time of gradually opening up the economy. So, you wearing a mask, keeping distance, avoiding congregate settings, doing things like washing hands as frequently as you can, you can have a great impact on the dynamics of the outbreak and do that at the same time that you’re gradually opening up your economy. Quite frankly, John, that’s what we were saying months and months ago when we were trying to reopen the economy with the guidelines that we had put out, that, unfortunately, were not uniformly followed.

SMITH: Alright, so Dr. Fauci, final – final, because real quick, you just said you talk to Governor Cuomo often. So if he called you today and said I’ve got a positivity rate below one percent, I’ve got a lot of people vaccinated, I — do you think it’s safe to reopen at least for 25 percent capacity in-person dining? What would you tell him?

FAUCI: Well, you know, I would like to hear a little bit more about what’s going on, what the dynamics are. Again, you don’t make policy in a conversation like you and I. What I would be happy to do is, after I have a conversation with the governor, then talk to you about the things we discussed, but I don’t want to do it before I have the conversation.

SMITH: Appreciate it. Thanks Dr. Fauci, appreciate you taking all the questions.

FAUCI: All right, take care.

ROBERTS: You don’t last as long as — you don’t last as long as he has in this position when you’re negotiating in public. There’s no question. Dr. Fauci, great to see you, thanks so much.

SMITH: Really appreciate it, thank you.

FAUCI: Thank you. Thanks a lot. Take care.

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