WASHINGTON — The White House on Wednesday tried to distance itself from an attack on Dr. Anthony S. Fauci by President Trump’s top trade adviser, the latest criticism of the government’s leading infectious disease expert by a prominent administration official.
A short op-ed by Peter Navarro in USA Today on Tuesday, with the stark headline “Anthony Fauci has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on,” was not cleared by communications officials before it was published, according to a White House spokeswoman.
“The Peter Navarro op-ed didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone,” Alyssa Farah, the White House director for strategic communications, wrote on Twitter. “@realdonaldtrump values the expertise of the medical professionals advising his Administration.”
But when he called reporters into the Oval Office hours later, Mr. Trump did not criticize the piece.
“That’s Peter Navarro,” Mr. Trump said, “but I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci.”
The exchange was emblematic of an administration that has been taking an uneven approach to efforts by some in the administration to undermine Dr. Fauci, whose stark analysis of the coronavirus has clashed with a rosier picture put forth by Mr. Trump and his other advisers since the early days of the pandemic. Mr. Trump has not criticized his aides for publicly attacking Dr. Fauci, nor has he called them off.
Earlier this week, officials declined to comment when Dan Scavino, one of the president’s closest advisers, posted a mocking cartoon of Dr. Fauci to social media.
And over the weekend, some of Mr. Trump’s advisers anonymously fed news outlets with remarks that Dr. Fauci had made about the virus earlier this year that they suggested raised questions about his judgment.
Tension between Mr. Navarro, an economist by training, and Dr. Fauci has been brewing for months. In a coronavirus task force meeting that Mr. Navarro asked to attend earlier this year, the two argued over the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine, a drug Mr. Trump has touted as a cure for the virus.
Mr. Navarro’s op-ed broadly lays out what White House officials have been saying privately about Dr. Fauci, and what Mr. Trump has said publicly — that they like Dr. Fauci personally but that he has “made some mistakes.” But Mr. Trump has stopped short of addressing public criticism from his aides.
In the op-ed, Mr. Navarro wrote that “I confronted him with scientific studies providing evidence of safety and efficacy,” and highlighted a new study that he said showed a 50 percent reduction in the mortality rate when the medicine is used. Medical experts have criticized that study, published by the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, as incomplete.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated July 15, 2020
Is the coronavirus airborne?
- The coronavirus can stay aloft for hours in tiny droplets in stagnant air, infecting people as they inhale, mounting scientific evidence suggests. This risk is highest in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation, and may help explain super-spreading events reported in meatpacking plants, churches and restaurants. It’s unclear how often the virus is spread via these tiny droplets, or aerosols, compared with larger droplets that are expelled when a sick person coughs or sneezes, or transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces, said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech. Aerosols are released even when a person without symptoms exhales, talks or sings, according to Dr. Marr and more than 200 other experts, who have outlined the evidence in an open letter to the World Health Organization.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
What’s the best material for a mask?
Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?
- A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.
I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?
- The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.
What is pandemic paid leave?
- The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.
Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?
- So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.
What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?
- Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.
How does blood type influence coronavirus?
- A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.
How can I protect myself while flying?
- If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
What should I do if I feel sick?
Mr. Navarro also wrote that he had warned officials in late January of the threat posed by the coronavirus, while Dr. Fauci had “fought against the president’s courageous decision” to close American borders to travelers from China.
It is true that a memo Mr. Navarro wrote outlining the threat of the virus was the earliest high-level alert known to have circulated inside the West Wing during the early days of the administration’s response. It is also true that Dr. Fauci was initially skeptical of closing the country’s borders, over concerns such an action could limit the movements of doctors and other health professionals trying to contain the disease. But by the end of January, Dr. Fauci and other public health experts were on board with the decision.
Despite the continuing attacks by administration advisers and the attempts to limit his television appearances, Dr. Fauci hasn’t stopped his public appearances. On Tuesday, at a virtual event at Georgetown University, he urged students to trust public health experts over politicians, without criticizing the administration he works for directly.
“You can trust respected medical authorities. I believe I’m one of them. So, I think you can trust me,” Dr. Fauci said. “I would stick with respected medical authorities who have a track record of telling the truth, who have a track record of giving information and policy and recommendations based on scientific evidence and good data.”
He added: “Don’t get involved in any of the political nonsense,” calling it a “waste of time.”