Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview with CBS News that referring to a cure for COVID-19 may cause "confusion," and he also weighed in on the health status of President Trump, who contracted the virus but is eager to return to in-person events as the presidential campaign reaches its closing weeks. Fauci also identified the White House ceremony for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett as a "super-spreader" event.
Fauci, director of the National institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was asked by CBS News' Steven Portnoy about Mr. Trump's penchant in recent media appearances for referring to the treatment he received for COVID-19 as a "cure." Portnoy, CBS News' White House radio correspondent, observed that until recently, most of the president's aides have not worn masks, and he asked what people can learn about the efficacy of that strategy in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
"I think the — the data speaks for themselves," Fauci said of mask-wearing. "We had a super-spreader event in the White House and it was in a situation where people were crowded together and were not wearing masks. So the data speak for themselves."
A number of Trump aides and alliesin September have since tested positive for COVID-19.
And talk of a "cure" is inaccurate, Fauci suggested, since there currently is no cure for COVID-19 — only therapeutics.
"We don't have any indication — I think you really have to depend on what you mean by a 'cure,' because that's a word that leads to a lot of confusion," Fauci said. "We have good treatments for people with advanced disease who are in the hospital."
Turning to the president's health, the infectious diseases expert did not think that the fact that the president was heard coughing during an interview with Fox News on Thursday night was cause for alarm. He walked through the COVID symptoms that could still be evident, even as Mr. Trump's health may be improving.
"Most people, when they recover, they recover fine. In a linear fashion, they get better and better and better, which it appears that the president is doing," Fauci said. "But having a bit of a lingering cough is not at all unusual as someone recovers. So I was not that taken aback by the clip that you just told me because when people do recover, they can have a lingering cough and maybe even a little shortness of breath for a while after they recover. Sometimes it takes a while to get everything back to normal."
And a cough does not necessarily mean a person is still shedding the virus, although a person who coughs could still be shedding the virus, Fauci also said.
The president's physician, Sean Conley, has said Mr. Trump may, although he has also said it won't be until Monday that the president is fully in the clear. Fauci said the president's doctors' "projection" is that the "slope of decline" of the virus makes them believe that by Saturday, it's highly likely the level of virus detectable in his blood won't be high enough for him to infect others. Fauci said he's certain the president's doctors will not allow him to leave the White House without further testing.
"I can tell you, they are going to be testing him to determine the trajectory and whether he gets to the point where he's not infected," Fauci said. "I don't know all the other stuff you would just saying. But I can guarantee you that they will be testing him before they let him go out."