Presiding over his first White House press brief under the new Biden administration, Dr Anthony Fauci told reporters that after the departure of former president Donald Trump he feels liberated to speak freely about the coronavirus pandemic and the science behind it.
Asked if he felt differently now that he works under President Biden, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said:
“I don’t want to be going back, you know, over history, but it’s very clear that there were things that were said, be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things like that, that really was uncomfortable, because they were not based on scientific fact. I can tell you, I take no pleasure at all in being in a situation of contradicting the President. So, it was really something that you didn’t feel that you could actually say something and there wouldn’t be any repercussions about it.”
Fauci noted that under President Biden, he feels that he can speak to topics based on his expertise.
“The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence —what the science is — and know that’s it, let the science speak, it is somewhat of a liberating feeling,” he said.
In another subtle dig at the former administration, Fauci said, “You know, one of the new things in this administration, if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess. Just say you don’t know the answer.”
Fauci was providing an update on the status of the pandemic in the country and the distribution of vaccines.
“Obviously we are still in a very serious situation. To have over 400,000 deaths is something that is unfortunately historic in a very bad sense,” Fauci said.
Fauci noted that while the number of new infections is still at a “very high rate,” when you look more recently at the seven-day average of cases, “right now it looks like it might actually be plateauing in the sense of turning around.”
Talking about the emergence of the new virus strains with “greater transmissibility”, Fauci said that the variant origination in South Africa is a “little bit more concerning” than the one rampaging the United Kingdom. Although he reiterated that vaccines will be effective against the new strains.
Earlier in the day, CNN reported that a source in the Biden administration said they saw a complete lack of a vaccine distribution strategy under Trump.
“There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch,” the source told CNN.
However, Anthony Fauci seemed to contradict reports that the plans of widespread COVID-19 vaccine rollout under the Trump administration were abysmal.
“No, I mean we’re coming in with fresh ideas, but also some ideas with the, with the previous administration, you can’t say it was absolutely not usable at all. So, we are continuing but you’re going to see a real ramping up of it.”
Meanwhile, he touted plans for community vaccine centres, pharmacy buy-in, and targeted use of the Defense Production Act, adding, “it’s taking what’s going on, but amplifying it in a big way.”
America’s top health expert also pressed on the fact that Biden’s aforementioned goal of ‘100 million vaccinations in first 100 days’ is “quite reasonable.”
The briefing comes after President Biden rolled out his national strategy to battle the coronavirus pandemic that includes several executive actions related to vaccinations and testing in hopes of moving the federal response in a different direction.
Biden signed executive orders beefing up supplies for vaccination, testing and personal protective equipment and another boosting development of therapeutics to treat COVID-19.
He said the plan was developed with input from Fauci and other advisers and experts.