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As the nation's focus has seemingly shifted this month from the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic to protests against racial injustice following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the disease has also come up less often between President Donald Trump and one of his top experts.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert and a leading medical voice throughout the pandemic, told NPR's 1A program on Tuesday that the last time he spoke with Trump was "two weeks ago."
"Not last week, but the week before," said Fauci, 79, when asked about their last interaction. "I spoke with him when we made the presentation to explain to him our vaccine development efforts, so it was two weeks ago."
Speaking with NPR, Fauci discussed the states who have more quickly moved to reopen their economies, which some critics have pointed to in trying to explain recent spikes in coronavirus cases around the country.
"I think there certainly were states that did not strictly follow the guidelines that we put out about opening America again," Fauci said, adding, "Clearly, there were states who, left to their own decision about that, went ahead and opened to a varying degree, maybe even — I wouldn't say 'too soon' — but certainly before they got to the benchmarks they needed to get."
The novel coronavirus has killed at least 117,300 people in the U.S., according to a New York Times tracker. The Times reports at least 2.16 million confirmed cases of the virus have been reported nationwide.
Despite discussion of a "second wave" of the coronavirus this year, Fauci argued in another interview Tuesday that the U.S. still isn't past the first wave of infections.
“When I look at the TV and I see pictures of people congregating at bars when the location they are indicates they shouldn’t be doing that, that’s very risky,” Fauci told The Wall Street Journal.
"People keep talking about a second wave," he said. "We're still in a first wave."
Shutterstock Dr. Anthony Fauci at the White House on April 22.
Fauci told NPR that a second wave was "not inevitable" if "we do what we need to do to prevent it from happening," but he criticized some individuals for not following social distancing and not wearing masks in public.
"Even when states officially go by the standard types of recommendations, you still see people who are in a state, or in a city, who are essentially not adhering to the kinds of recommendations, particularly in situations of congregating together without wearing a mask," Fauci said. "I mean, that clearly is a risky procedure."
He added: "That's the thing that's troublesome, because that clearly is increasing the risk and likely explaining some of the upticks you're seeing in certain of those states."
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that nine states across the country "had reported either new single-day highs or set a record for seven-day new case averages" for COVID-19, the coronavirus disease. Those states included: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Texas.
Fauci, who is the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said earlier this month that he was "cautiously optimistic" that one of the ongoing coronavirus vaccine trials will prove successful in the U.S. and that the country would have a “couple of hundred million doses” by early 2021.
"I'm cautiously optimistic that with the multiple candidates that we have with different platforms, that we're going to have a vaccine that shows a degree of efficacy that would make it deployable," he told CNN.
Fauci's messaging in recent weeks has largely come through media interviews, like his interview on NPR's 1A program on Tuesday. The Trump administration last held a coronavirus press briefing on May 22 after weeks of daily updates, some of which went on for hours with extensive question-and-answer sessions.
Drew Angerer/Getty President Donald Trump (left) looks on as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks to the media on March 24 during the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing.
Pence, who is the head of the Trump administration's coronavirus task force, argued in his op-ed that "the media has taken to sounding the alarm bells" about a second wave of the virus.
"Such panic is overblown," Pence, 60, wrote.
When asked by NPR this week to "what extent" he'd blame local and national leaders for continued spikes of the virus, Fauci avoided blaming certain individuals for the pandemic's impact.
"I don't want to be blaming people," he said. "That's not helpful. I think what we really need to do is say, 'these are the facts.' "
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