Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci; Trump Campaigns in Florida as Coronavirus Pandemic Escalates. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired October 12, 2020 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: In minutes, I'm going to talk to Dr. Fauci, as we wait for President Trump to depart the White House and perhaps talk to reporters, as he heads to a campaign rally in Florida tonight.

It's the first of four Trump rallies this week, as President Trump continues to defy all public health guidance in stopping the spread of this deadly virus, astoundingly continuing to hold rallies, with no requirement of masks or distancing, rallies that we know have led to his very own supporters getting infected, and worse.

This comes even in the wake of his own battle with coronavirus, in which he was able to get experimental drugs and treatment not available to those whom he is inviting into harm's way.

President Trump, in an effort to secure his own political future, is putting the health and lives of his supporters at risk.

And, as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, the president's physician has yet to say whether or not his client, his patient has tested negative for the virus.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After being sidelined from the campaign trail because of coronavirus, President Trump returns tonight with an outdoor rally in Florida.

It'll be his first appearance outside Washington since testing positive. And, as his opponent is widening his lead, Trump is packing his schedule, with more rallies in Pennsylvania, Iowa and North Carolina this week alone.

But questions remain unanswered about the president's condition.

QUESTION: Has the president tested negative for coronavirus?

COLLINS: White House officials won't say whether he's tested negative, and Trump's doctor hasn't taken questions from reporters in a week, leaving the president to spin his own health.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm immune for, I don't know, maybe a long time, or maybe a short time. It could be a lifetime. Nobody really knows. But I'm immune.

COLLINS: The science on immunity is still out, though CDC guidelines do say that those who had COVID-19 can be around others starting 10 days after their symptoms first appeared.

And there are also still questions about whether the White House is taking COVID-19 seriously, after Chief of Staff Mark Meadows refused to answer questions when reporters asked him to keep his mask on inside today.

MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Let me do this. Let me pull this away.

QUESTION: Yes. Pull away.

MEADOWS: And then, that way, I can take this off to talk.


MEADOWS: Well, I'm more than 10 feet away. I'm not -- well, I'm not going to talk through a mask.

COLLINS: The president is returning to the trail, as Dr. Anthony Fauci says a new campaign ad that features him is misleading.

NARRATOR: President Trump tackled the virus head on, as leaders should.


COLLINS: Dr. Fauci says that ad misrepresented what he said seven months ago.

FAUCI: I'm not the only one. There's a whole group of us that are doing that. It's every single day. So, I can't imagine that, under any circumstances, that anybody could be doing more.

COLLINS: Fauci told CNN in a statement he has never endorsed any political candidate and his comment was "taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials."


COLLINS: So, clearly, Jake, Dr. Fauci not happy with that ad.

But we should talk about the president's campaign schedule. He's got at least four rallies this week. But we're told by campaign officials that he's been on their case to add more to his schedule, and they said to expect it to go up to two to three events per day soon.

And we should note, his campaign manager, who tested positive for coronavirus 10 days ago, did tell reporters today he is back at the office, which he says is in compliance with those CDC guidelines -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Well, we're glad he's feeling better.

Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you.


TAPPER: Here to discuss, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH, and a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Dr. Fauci, good to have you back.

I do have to ask you about this Trump campaign advertisement where you're on camera saying -- quote -- "I can't imagine that anybody could be doing more."

You quickly came out with a statement that noted that that sentence had been taken out of context. You were talking about the whole-of- government response, not President Trump.

And, of course, you have never endorsed a presidential candidate in your five decades of public service.

Should the Trump campaign take this ad down?

FAUCI: You know, I think so, Jake.

I think it's really unfortunate and really disappointing that they did that. It's so clear that I'm not a political person. And I have never either, directly or indirectly, endorsed a political candidate.

And to take a completely out-of-context statement and put it in which is obviously a political campaign ad, I thought was really very disappointing.

TAPPER: What would you say if I told you I heard that the Trump campaign was actually preparing to do another ad featuring you?

FAUCI: You know, that would be terrible. I mean, that would be outrageous, if they do that.


In fact, that might actually come back to backfire on them. I hope they don't do that, because that's -- that would be kind of playing a game that we don't want to play. So, I hope they reconsider that, if, in fact, they are, indeed, considering doing that. I hope that they reconsider and not do that.

TAPPER: The -- let's talk about the pandemic, because, right now, President Trump is getting ready to leave for Florida. That's a state that has an 11 percent positivity rate. That's pretty high.

Any minute, he's going to go there to hold an outdoor campaign rally. Now, you called the Rose Garden event two or so weeks ago a super- spreader event, no distancing, very few masks.

We know that previous Trump rallies in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Minnesota have led to infections and illnesses, possibly even death. We know the Trump campaign does not require masks, they do not require distancing.

As a public health matter, how worried are you about these rallies that the president is kicking off?

FAUCI: Yes, you know, Jake, I'm glad you used that word as a public health matter, because put aside all of the issues of what political implications a rally has, and just put that aside, and look at it purely in the context of public health.

We know that that is asking for trouble when you do that. We have seen that, when you have situations of congregate settings, where there are a lot of people without masks, the data speak for themselves. It happens.

And now is even more so a worse time to do that, because, when you look at what's going on in the United States, it's really very troublesome. A number of states right now are having increase in test positivity, states above the Sunbelt, states in the Sunbelt.

If you look at the map with the color coding of cases and states that are going up, you see states in the Northwest and the Midwest, it's going in the wrong direction right now. So, if there's anything we should be doing, we should be doubling down in implementing the public health measures that we have been talking about for so long, which are keeping a distance, no crowds, wearing masks, washing hands, doing things outside, as opposed to inside, in order to get those numbers down.

We're entering into the cool months of the fall and ultimately the cold months of the winter. And that's just a recipe of a real problem, if we don't get things under control before we get into that seasonal challenge.

TAPPER: President Trump says he's immune to the virus because he has survived it.

His physician, Dr. Sean Conley, gave him the OK to travel. He says the president is no longer considered a transmission risk. Conley did not say the president has tested negative.

Now, I know the CDC does not say that testing negative is required before somebody is allowed to travel and be around others. Can you explain that to us? Why not?

FAUCI: Well, it just goes to what's practical in the community.

They have found that, if you are 10 days from the onset of symptoms, the chances are extraordinarily low that you are going to be transmissible, that you would be able to transmit it.

If you really want to nail it down, you do a PCR test, and you show that the person has a level of virus that's not going to be transmitted. And that's what you can do sometimes. Whether they do that or not, that remains to be seen.

But the president is -- would be well within the 10-day time frame of being nontransmissible.

TAPPER: What about him saying that he's immune because he has the viruses? Is the science conclusive on that yet?

FAUCI: Well, the problem with the word immune, I -- it means different things to different individuals, Jake.

If he means that he's been infected, and, having been infected and recovered, that he will not get infected again, that's true for a limited period of time.

What we do not know is how long that protection lasts. So, technically speaking, the fact that he has recovered, from an immunological standpoint, he has an immune response in him that very likely would protect him from being reinfected.

But we have got to be careful about that, because we're starting to see a number of cases that are being reported of people who get reinfected, well-documented cases of people who were infected, after a relatively brief period of time, measured anywhere from weeks to several months, come back, get exposed, and get infected again.

So, you really have to be careful, that you're not completely -- quote -- "immune."

TAPPER: I want to talk about this idea of, like, once you're past that 10-day period of showing symptoms, you're likely not contagious anymore.

Given that there's so much we still don't know about this virus, would it not be better for those who have been infected -- I'm thinking right now specifically of Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who was maskless at the Supreme Court confirmation hearing today.

He said that he got a -- he produced a letter showing that he's outside the 10 days, and the doctor gave him the all-clear.

But I have to say, I don't know that I would feel comfortable sitting next to him so soon.


FAUCI: Right.

TAPPER: Wouldn't it -- in the name of being better to be safe than sorry, wouldn't it be better for President Trump, Senator Lee to wear masks and limit their exposure to others, even if they're past the 10 days?

FAUCI: Yes, I mean, as the better part of caution, I think that would be appropriate to do that.

I mean, I certainly think, from a practical standpoint, I probably would do that myself, just to be extra careful.

But the thing that you mentioned just a moment ago of doing an actual test to look for the level of virus and viral remnants would probably get people to be feeling much more comfortable about the lack of transmissibility.

And they very well may do that to just go that extra step, to show that an individual, whoever that might be, the president or anybody else, a senator or anybody, to just go that extra step, in addition to the 10-day period, to show that the virus itself is not present in a form that would be transmissible.


TAPPER: We're going to squeeze in a quick break and have more with Dr. Fauci in just a few seconds.

There's early data showing that classrooms do not appear to be the major spreaders of COVID-19 that experts once feared. I'll ask him about that.

Plus, brand-new polls that show President Trump losing two states he won in 2016. We will talk about that with our polling guru.

Stick around.



TAPPER: You're looking at live pictures right now.

That's Sanford, Florida, where President Trump is holding a rally later this evening. You can already see, lots of red hats, very few masks, no distancing.

President Trump is pushing ahead with rallies, despite his recent coronavirus infection and the fact that Florida is not a safe place yet for crowds like this. President Trump just walked out of the Oval Office on his way to head to Florida.

This comes as 31 states are seeing an upward trend of new coronavirus cases, including Florida. Seven states saw their highest single day of new cases since the pandemic began.

And now the latest forecast from the IHME projects another 181,000 deaths in the United States by February.

So, we turn back to our conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert and a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.


TAPPER: How bad is this going to get this winter? And is there anything that we need to be doing, other than the masks and the avoiding crowds, and the handwashing, that we're not doing?

FAUCI: You know, Jake, I hope these numbers that you're quoting, which are absolutely correct numbers, jolt the American public into the realization that we really cannot let this happen, because it's on a trajectory of getting worse and worse.

And that's the worst possible thing that can happen as we get into the cooler months. You don't -- I think people think that, when we talk about public health, that we're talking about shutting down. Let's get that off the table. We are not talking about shutting down.

We're talking about simple public health measures, as simple as they sound, are really quite effective. And that's what we say over and over again, universal wearing of masks, keep physical distance, above all, avoid crowds and congregate settings. And if you can't help being in that situation, absolutely wear a mask, wash your hands as often as you can, try to do things outdoors, much more preferably than indoors.

If we just do those five things, Jake, we don't have to do anything more complicated than that, and you would have a major impact on preventing surges or even turning surges around that are ongoing.

TAPPER: Let's talk about schools, because Brown University has been analyzing data from about 1,000 schools.

According to their researchers, early data -- it's early -- suggests -- quote -- "Schools are not super-spreaders and fears from the summer appear to have been overblown."

They found that just point 0.13 percent of students have tested positive and only 0.24 percent of teachers.

That's encouraging, right? I know it's preliminary, but it's encouraging.

Should more schools consider reopening in-person classes, as long as they're taking the safety precautions, kids are wearing masks, teachers are wearing masks, distancing as much as possible?

FAUCI: You know, Jake, you make a good point.

When you hear anecdotal cases of individual schools, they really vary. I mean, the one you gave is a real-life phenomenon of attempting to open and doing it successfully with very few cases. Then you hear other situations of trying to do that, and you get an outbreak of cases that then they have to just reverse what they decided to do about the school.

The thing that seems to be constant throughout that is that, when schools are prepared, when they have a plan, when everyone is universally wearing masks, when they're testing people in a surveillance way to get people who are infected out of the system, they know what to do when they're confronted with a person, a child, or an older student who gets infected, it can work.

You really can reopen the schools and get going with the schools. You have just got to be careful and you have got to have a plan. That's another thing that often gets misinterpreted.

When people say, well, you want to shut down all the schools, no, not at all, if done correctly and carefully.

TAPPER: How often should they be testing? How often should they be testing?

FAUCI: Well, that really depends.

TAPPER: Mm-hmm.

FAUCI: You know, Jake, that really depends on the circumstances that we're at.

As I have often said, if you are in a green or a dark green zone, where the level of infection is extraordinarily low, you probably can be less stringent in what you do in surveillance, and even in other types of mitigation.


If you're in an orange or in a red zone, where it really is likely that you're going to wind up getting infections because of the level in the community, you may have to do that more often.

There's no single number that's the correct number. It's not one-size- fits-all.

TAPPER: And, lastly, sir, there were 20 percent more deaths not counted as COVID deaths, other deaths, 20 percent more than expected in the U.S. from March through August.

Do you think that this is a sign that we are actually undercounting coronavirus deaths?

FAUCI: Yes. No, you can't say for sure, Jake, but it certainly suggests that that is the case.

Unless you can find another reason, which I can't think of, of there being these excess deaths in the context of coronavirus, you would have to make an assumption that it's reasonably possible, if not likely, that those are deaths that are related to corona, and they are just not being counted.

TAPPER: I would just like this -- to take this opportunity to thank you for coming, thank the White House for allowing you to come, and also to plea that the White House let you and Dr. Birx and the other health experts, not any politicians, just the health experts, resume your daily briefings of the public.

I think the public would really benefit from that. It probably won't happen, but it would be great for the media and it would be great for people interested in public health.

Dr. Fauci, thanks so much for joining us.

FAUCI: Thank you, Jake. Thank you for having me on your show.


TAPPER: So, let's discuss what we just heard.

So, Nia-Malika, Dr. Fauci just said it's asking for trouble, in terms of coronavirus, for President Trump to hold these rallies. Not only that, but, I mean, just look at them. Here's a live picture of the rally site from Sanford, Florida, lots of red hats, no masks, I don't see any masks in there. There's probably a couple, but obviously no distancing.

I mean, the one good thing is that it's outdoors. But the infection rate in Florida is -- I think it's like 9 or 10 percent. It's almost as if it is more important for the president to speak before an adoring throng of individuals than it is to keep them safe.


And it's important for him to see them in many ways without masks. I mean, this is what the president has done. If you go back to his Tulsa rally, where Herman Cain was at that rally -- unfortunately, he passed away -- he likes to see maskless people.

And that is what got him in trouble around the White House, other folks in trouble in getting COVID around the White House. It's almost like being maskless is equivalent to wearing the red hat. They essentially go together, and they show that you're with this president.

And I'm sure he's going to go before this crowd and say what he's always said, which is that he's immune, this is easy to beat, all of which is not true.

Of course, it is easier to overcome it if you have the kind of world- class care that he had, right?

TAPPER: Right.

HENDERSON: But most Americans will not get that.


TAPPER: And just to note, there's no definitive proof -- it's just not achievable -- that Herman Cain got the virus at that Tulsa rally.

But when you look at the timeline, 12 days after the rally, he checks into the hospital, a month after that he dies, public health experts tell me it's completely consistent with the idea of Cain getting the virus at that indoor rally, which was President Trump's first back to -- the first rally after the pandemic began.

And, Jackie, I mean, I really find this just astounding. I mean, the health experts in Minnesota did contact tracing and found that a rally the president had, I think, September 18 in Minnesota, nine people got the virus there, two are hospitalized. One is in the intensive care unit.

And I don't know what the other states are doing. But, I mean, it's like he's trying to kill off his own supporters.

KUCINICH: Well, the thing is, is, there's really not a lot to the states can do to keep him from coming into the states and holding these rallies, many of which that exceed the limits on gatherings that these states have in place.

And the states are kind of left to deal with the problems that he leaves behind. And you hear the president and his advisers say that it's a matter of personal preference, personal responsibility if someone decides to put on a mask or not, when, in fact, it's actually protecting other people from anything you might have.

So, it actually isn't just about you. It isn't about you at all. It's about everyone else around you and protecting other people. And that has never been part of the message coming out of the White House from the non-public health experts inside.


TAPPER: And, Nia-Malika, I mean, as you pointed out in the last hour, when we discussed this complete recklessness, irresponsibility by President Trump and his campaign, the voters that he needs to win over are not these MAGA-hat-wearing voters. They're with him. They love him. They're turning out for him.

The people he's having problems with are seniors, who, according to polls, are leaning -- are heading towards Joe Biden, and suburban moms, working-class moms, people who want their families to be protected and care about responsibility.

They see these rallies. What do they think?

HENDERSON: You know, they think this president is reckless. They think this president has handled coronavirus terribly.

All the polls show, what, 65 percent or so of Americans disapprove of his handling. And so there you see this rally, with all of that recklessness on display, the president calling all of his supporters to this open-air rally, where they're not having any masks on, where they're essentially encouraged -- I mean, let's just be real here -- they're sort of encouraged not to wear masks.

It's almost the price of admission to be a die-hard Trump supporter is to not wear a mask at these rallies, and to flout all of the expertise and all of the dire warnings that we heard from Dr. Fauci just now.

So, listen, he's down with seniors. He's down with independents. He's down -- he's tied with Biden among men, which is a disaster. If you're Republican, you typically win among men. And he, of course, is down by something like 26 points to Biden in this last "Washington Post" poll that I saw.

So, this doesn't make sense health-wise. And it's ridiculous and doesn't make sense at all in terms of politics and where he is and needing to get back into this race. This keeps him underwater and standing still, which is behind Biden at this point, way behind, especially in the national polls.

TAPPER: Yes, beyond that, the three of us are expressing much more concern and compassion for these Trump supporters than the Trump campaign is and President Trump is.

Nia-Malika, Jackie, thanks to both of you. Really appreciate it.

HENDERSON: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: President Trump trailing significantly in national polls. Time appears to be running out, not an unfamiliar place for him, of course.

Why this looks a little like 2016 and why it also looks quite different -- that's next.