Dr. Anthony Fauci said he is “absolutely not” surprised President Donald Trump contracted Covid-19 after seeing him surrounded by people not wearing face masks and flouting best public health practices.
Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said during an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday, “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.”
“When I saw that on TV, I said, ‘Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come out of that, that’s got to be a problem,’” he continued.
“And then sure enough, it turned out to be a superspreader event.”
Fauci appeared to be referencing the Rose Garden event where Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett was his pick to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. At least 12 people have tested positive for Covid-19 after attending the September 26 event.
Even though the ceremony was held outdoors and many attendees were tested before being allowed in, photos and videos of the event showed few people wearing masks, many people greeting each other with hugs and handshakes, and people mingling and sitting very closely.
There were also smaller, private gatherings inside the White House that did not include the mask-wearing or social distancing that public health experts have advised is essential to stopping the spread of the virus.
Fauci had previously labeled the event as a “superspreader” – noting the lack of public health measures in place and the slate of positive tests that followed.
“The data speak for themselves,” he said.
Trump announced that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for coronavirus just days after the Rose Garden event. He was transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and received various treatments before returning to the White House.
Upon his release, the President told his followers the virus that had hospitalized him for 72 hours was nothing to fear before posing for a mask-less photo-op on the White House balcony.
“Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life,” Trump had written several hours before walking carefully out the hospital’s front doors, even as his doctors warned that he wasn’t yet “out of the woods.”
Fauci told “60 Minutes” it doesn’t make sense to him why Trump “equates wearing a mask with weakness.”
Earlier guidance from US officials didn’t recommend widespread masking, but in April, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended face coverings for the general public given that people without symptoms could unknowingly transmit the virus.
Masks, Fauci maintained, “really do work.”
This story has been updated with additional reporting.