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"You don't make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline": Dr. Fauci delivers frank message on coronavirus

Dr. Agus: Social distancing "is starting to work"
Dr. Agus on coronavirus pandemic: Social distancing "is starting to work" 04:46

Several officials have emerged as voices of clarity during the coronavirus pandemic and one of them is Dr. Anthony Fauci. The nation's infectious diseases expert and member of the White House Task Force, Fauci has remained confident and calm, even when delivering less than optimistic news.

In an interview on Wednesday, Fauci delivered a realistic take on how long the coronavirus outbreak would last: "You don't make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline."

Fauci works alongside President Trump, who has said he hopes to get the economy back up and running by Easter. Fauci, however, has been hesitant to set an arbitrary deadline on changing behavior during the crisis.

"You've got to be realistic," he told CNN's Chris Cuomo. "And you've got to understand that you don't make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline. So you've got to respond, in what you see happen. And if you keep seeing this acceleration, it doesn't matter what you say. One week, two weeks, three weeks — you've got to go with what the situation on the ground is."

Fauci did say there is an "inkling" of flattening the curve, but officials cannot make decisions until data shows them what they're dealing with. 

This contrasts what Mr. Trump has said over the past week. Despite the acceleration of coronavirus cases across the U.S. — and health officials' repeated social distancing guidance — Mr. Trump said during Fox News town hall that he wants the U.S. "opened up" by April 12.

"We'll only do it if it's good," he added at a later briefing. "And maybe we do sections of the country, we do large sections of the country. That could be, too." He said the administration is "very in touch" with medical experts and would follow "whatever they would do."

In an interview with Science Magazine, Fauci said Mr. Trump does listen to him.

"To [Trump's] credit, even though we disagree on some things, he listens," Fauci said of the commander in chief. "He goes his own way. He has his own style. But on substantive issues, he does listen to what I say."

When the president tweeted that an experimental drug combo has "a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine," Fauci followed up with a much more modest assessment, explaining that more research will be needed to see if it works against the coronavirus.

In the same Science Magazine interview, Fauci recognized that sometimes the information Mr. Trump gives during press briefings does not comport with facts. Fauci said advisers try to tell Mr. Trump when his claims are incorrect. "But I can't jump in front of the microphone and push him down. OK, he said it. Let's try and get it corrected for the next time," Fauci said.

It seems that more and more often, Fauci is using his platform to correct the record — and he's gained widespread attention for doing so.

Mr. Trump has been criticized by both New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for not doing enough for his home state during this crisis. On "Face The Nation," Fauci admitted that in a matter of two weeks, New York City would run out of medical equipment.

"New York is the most hard hit," Fauci said on the show Sunday. "So not only is New York trying to get resources themselves, but we're going to be pouring it in from the federal government. So it would be a combination of local and federal. But it's very, very clear that they are a very high priority."

In the same interview, Fauci admitted U.S. hospitals were overwhelmed from the beginning and "can't play catch up." He also seemed to again contradict Mr. Trump's claim that the U.S. could loosen social-distancing rules to help the economy.

"We're going to get hit. There's no doubt about it. We see it in New York. New York is is terribly suffering," he told "Face The Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan.

"But the kinds of mitigation issues that are going on right now, the things that we're seeing in this country, this physical separation, at the same time as we're preventing an influx of cases coming in, I think that's gonna go a long way to preventing us from becoming in Italy," he said.

Fauci says social distancing is crucial to prevent U.S. from "becoming an Italy" 07:43
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