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Dr. Fauci 'absolutely not' surprised that President Trump got COVID-19

The White House coronavirus task force member also stressed the importance of wearing masks and said he has received "credible" death threats for doing his job.
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/ Source: TODAY

When Dr. Anthony Fauci learned that President Trump had tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, it didn't come as a shock.

"Absolutely not," he told "60 Minutes" on Sunday.

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The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force became concerned once he saw images of the president at a White House gathering last month for the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

"I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask," he said. "When I saw that on TV, I said, 'Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come out of that, that's going to be a problem.' And then sure enough, it turned out to be a superspreader event."

The event in the Rose Garden was attended by more than 150 people, several of whom later tested positive for COVID-19, including first lady Melania Trump, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, the president of the University of Notre Dame, and a pair of Republican senators.

Fauci also made his stance clear about the importance of wearing masks.

Early in the pandemic, Fauci didn't advocate for people to wear masks because he was worried it would cause a shortage of surgical masks for frontline healthcare workers. He then changed course to recommend everyone wear masks after testing showed that asymptomatic people could spread the illness and simple cloth coverings could help prevent transmission of the virus.

"So let's see if we could put this to rest once and for all," he said. "It became clear that cloth coverings, things like this here, and not necessarily a surgical mask or an N95, cloth coverings, work. So now there's no longer a shortage of masks. Number two, meta-analysis studies show that, contrary to what we thought, masks really do work in preventing infection."

Fauci has been disappointed by Trump's stance on masks as coronavirus cases have gone past 8 million in the country and more than 218,000 people have died.

"He sometimes equates wearing a mask with weakness," Fauci said.

Fauci also has faced backlash for simply promoting public safety during the pandemic to the point where he needs to have federal agents with him when he goes for a walk.

"That's sad," he said. "The very fact that a public health message to save lives triggers such venom and animosity to me that it results in real and credible threats to my life and my safety. But it bothers me less than the hassling of my wife and my children."

Coronavirus cases have gone up in at least 38 states over the past two weeks, while Europe, Russia, India and other nations have experienced spikes of their own more than seven months into the pandemic. While there are several vaccines still in development, the future looks murky to Fauci with winter on the horizon.

"When you have a million deaths and over 30 million infections globally, you cannot say that we're on the road to essentially getting out of this," Fauci said. "So quite frankly, I don't know where we are. It's impossible to say."