President Donald Trump has said a sobering warning by Dr. Anthony Fauci, his top infectious diseases expert, about lifting pandemic restrictions too soon was unacceptable.
The president accused Dr. Fauci of wanting “to play all sides of the equation” in his testimony to lawmakers on May 12.
He said he was especially dissatisfied with Dr. Fauci’s caution around reopening schools too quickly.
Nearly 1.4 million people have been infected with Covid-19 in the US. Another 84,000 people have been killed by the new coronavirus, while ravaging the economy.
Speaking on May 13 at the White House, President Trump took issue with Dr. Fauci’s comments to a Senate hearing a day earlier about the risks to children of reopening and his assessment that a vaccine was unlikely before classes could begin this autumn.
He said: “Look, he wants to play all sides of the equation.”
“I was surprised by his answer actually, because, you know, it’s just to me – it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools,” the president told reporters.
The president said “the only thing that would be acceptable” is giving older teachers and professors a few more weeks before they return.
“Because this is a disease that attacks age, and it attacks health,” he said.
“But with the young children, I mean, and students, it’s really – just take a look at the statistics. It’s pretty amazing,” he added.
President Trump is keen to get Americans back to work and has praised governors who are moving to do so while criticizing others for not acting aggressively enough.
The US is split over President Trump’s focus on protecting livelihoods, critics accuse him of gambling with lives to serve his own political interests ahead of November’s re-election bid.
His latest comments come amid reports of some young children being severely affected by an inflammatory syndrome that could be linked to the virus.
Speaking to lawmakers on May 12, Dr. Fauci, a White House task force coronavirus expert, warned that relaxing stay-at-home rules too quickly could bring more “suffering and death”.
The director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases emphasized the importance of not being “cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects” of the disease.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said: “We just have to see on a step-by-step basis as we get into the period of time with the fall, about reopening the schools, exactly where we will be in the dynamics of the outbreak.”
He also said the real US death toll is probably higher than the official figure.
On May 12, Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan said he was lifting that state’s stay-at-home measure, replacing it on May 15 with a “safer-at-home” order.
The Republican, who has been critical of President Trump, cited a two-week decline in severe cases and deaths that federal guidelines recommend.