Political divisions in America are partly to blame for pushing the nation’s COVID-19 death toll over 500,000, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.
Fauci, speaking on CNN, declined to call out former President Donald Trump specifically, but said months of downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic by political leaders discouraged mitigation efforts such as mask wearing and social distancing promoted by public health experts.
“You are trying to signal the country to really buckle down and address the kinds of mitigation strategies we put forth,” said Fauci, a top health adviser to President Joe Biden. “And signals come saying ‘this isn’t so bad, we’re in pretty good shape…’ That was not helpful.”
Fauci said it was painful to hear people calling the pandemic “fake news” while hospitals were overrun with virus patients
“I mean, how could you possibly say that when people in your own state, your own city, your own county are dying?” Fauci said.
Fauci made his comments hours after Biden remembered the 500,000 American lives lost to COVID-19 at a Monday evening ceremony outside the White House. “As a nation, we can’t accept such a cruel fate,” Biden said. “While we’re fighting this pandemic for so long, we have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow.”
Also in the news:
►Health officials in Texas were optimistic that vaccine distribution would get back on track by the end of the week. Last week’s power crisis prompted shipping delays, canceled appointments and destroyed more than 900 doses of the vaccine across the state.
►NASCAR officials barred legendary team owner Chip Ganassi from this weekend’s event at Homestead-Miami Speedway and fined him $30,000 for violating COVID-19 event protocols at the Daytona 500. Ganassi’s penalty was for bringing a nonessential individual into the restricted competition area.
►Five vaccine makers are testifying today before a House oversight committee investigating the wobbly rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Novavax have representatives on the witness list.
►The House is focusing this week on Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Democrats in Congress aim to pass the whole proposal by mid-March. It currently includes a new round of checks for Americans, renewal of the Paycheck Protection Program and an extension of a federal boost for unemployment benefits.
►California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday plans to sign a state-sized coronavirus relief package that will include $600 one-time payments for 5.7 million people with low-to-moderate incomes. The bill was approved Monday by state lawmakers.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 28.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 500,200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 111.7 million cases and 2.47 million deaths. More than 75.2 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and about 64.1 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: Why get COVID-19 vaccination if you still have to wear a mask? It beats getting sick, health experts say.
Saturday Night Live is taking heat for a joke about Israel’s virus vaccination program.
Israel allows anyone over 16 access to shots and has vaccinated almost half its population. SNL’s “Weekend Update” anchor Michael Che joked that “I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.”
Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, controlled by Israel, are not included in the statistics and have little access to vaccines. Israel maintains the territories are responsible for their population’s health care.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt was among those taking issue with Che’s humor. Greenblatt cited “factual inaccuracies,” accusing Che of “playing into an antisemitic trope.”
Meghan McCain is standing firm despite social media backlash for suggesting Dr. Anthony Fauci be fired.
During Monday’s episode of “The View,” McCain shared how “frustrated” she is with Fauci following his appearance on CNN. McCain played a brief segment during which Fauci declined to recommend whether vaccinated grandparents are safe to see their unvaccinated grandchildren.
On Monday, McCain, 36, said she doesn’t know when or how she will be able to get a vaccine because the “rollout for my age range and my health is so nebulous.”
“I voiced my frustration honestly … I represent the feelings of many Americans,” she tweeted Tuesday. “I also believe sainting our public figures to infallibility is dangerous and irrational.”
– Cydney Henderson