Dr Anthony Fauci has criticized the decision to hold last week’s maskless White House Correspondents’ Dinner fearing that Americans might take it as a sure sign the pandemic is over and Covid no longer a serious threat.
The nation’s top infectious disease doctor shared his frustrations on a phone call with public health experts earlier this week saying he was ‘miffed’ stressing he was worried that people were losing sight of protecting those who are still most vulnerable when it comes to Covid.
Fauci then used the WHCA dinner, which was attended by President Joe Biden, as a prime example.
Thousands of guests including dozens of other administration officials all attended the event which was held at the Washington Hilton ballroom.
Yet just hours earlier, Fauci was spotted cozying up to CNN host Don Lennon at a White House Correspondents’ Dinner pre-party without a mask in sight.
Hours before the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Dr Anthony Fauci was spotted cozying up to CNN host Don Lennon at a pre-party without a mask in sight
Former Donald Trump political advisor Sean Spicer took to Twitter on Sunday to share a snap of Biden’s top medical advisor posing with Lemon and his partner, real estate agent Tim Malone at the 27th Annual White House Correspondents’ Weekend Garden Brunch Saturday
‘Fauci bailed on attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner because of ‘individual assessment of my personal risk.’ …..so he just went to the [crowded] pre-parties #WHCD,’ Former Donald Trump political advisor Sean Spice captioned the photo.
The snap was taken at the 27th Annual White House Correspondents’ Weekend Garden Brunch Saturday, which TV and political figures such as CBS News presenter Gayle King, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also attended.
Fauci’s attendance at the indoor-outdoor pre-party took many by surprise after the 81-year-old had informed ABC News, the news organization that invited him to the WHCD, he would not attend the 2,600-people event due to his own assessment of personal risk.
The Biden administration’s was holding an off-the-record callsin which groups of prominent health experts and commentators give updates on the Covid response. Biden is pictured speaking at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner last Saturday
Thousands of guests mingled during the annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner in Washington, last Saturday night
During the off-the-record call, which was heard by at least four other people, and reported to Politico, Fauci wondered aloud why so many felt comfortable gathering maskless indoors as a fresh surge in Covid cases continues to surge.
Fauci who did not attend the main dinner out of concern for his own health, did not criticize Biden or the other officials directly, but rather the points were made during his appeal for health experts to emphasize that the fight to control the pandemic fight is still continuing.
But Fauci’s assessment stands in direct contrast to the far more relaxed approach held by White House and Covid-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha who was both at the dinner and on Fauci’s phone call.
Jha made no comment in response to Fauci’s remarks.
‘I don’t think events like that need to be canceled,’ Jha told Fox News. ‘I think if people put in good safeguards, they can make it substantially safer, make sure people are vaccinated, make sure you have testing, improve ventilation. Those are strategies we have learned over the last two years.’
A spokesperson who knew of Fauci’s remarks said that the doctor was not directly criticizing the holding of the press corps dinner but a broader concern that the country needed to keep fighting Covid and protecting the vulnerable.
The call was part of the Biden administration’s off-the-record calls in which groups of prominent health experts and commentators give updates on the Covid response.
In the days leading up to the dinner, Fauci declared on PBS NewsHour the country was ‘out of the pandemic phase’ but then later walked back his comments to clarify that the country was not out of the pandemic completely.
‘We are certainly right now in this country out of the pandemic phase,’ he said.
‘Namely, we don’t have 900,000 new infections a day and tens and tens and tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. We are at a low level right now.’
Fauci later claimed that his remarks had been misconstrued. He clarified that the COVID threat in the U.S. was not as ‘acute and accelerated’ as it was earlier in the pandemic and the nation had reached a new ‘decelerated and controlled’ phase of the pandemic over the past several months.
‘That does not mean we are out of the woods,’ he said Wednesday, adding that the number of COVID positive cases is starting to ‘creep up’ again.
Fauci’s assessment stands in direct contrast to the far more relaxed approach held by White House and Covid-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha, pictured, who was both at the dinner and on Fauci’s phone call.
Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, applauds alongside first lady Jill Biden at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner
Since the dinner, several of those who attended have tested positive for Covid including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, however it is unclear whether he became infected at the event
The White House also played down concerns about downplayed concerns about attending the 2,500-person gathering stressing the wide availability of vaccines and treatments that are now on the market to prevent serious cases.
The White House Correspondents’ Association required all attendees to be vaccinated and show proof of a negative test.
Since the dinner, several of those who attended have tested positive for Covid including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, however it is unclear whether he became infected at the event.
WHCA President Steven Portnoy said the organization ‘implemented protocols that went beyond any guidance or regulation issued by the [Centers for Disease Control] or the D.C. Health Department.’
In April, the average daily number of new infections doubled since the start of the month and hospitalizations are also rising to as more Omicron subvariants spread.
The virus has muddied messaging from the White House who are keen to push past the public health crisis and now look towards managing the disease.
Katy Tur, journalist at NBC News, mingles during the dinner, last weekend
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