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Dr. Anthony Fauci was reportedly “miffed” about the optics of last week’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner as the coronavirus pandemic carries on.
Politico alleged during a Thursday phone call with health experts, that Fauci “expressed frustration with the growing perception that the pandemic is effectively over. He said he feared people are losing sight of the need to continue protecting the nation’s most vulnerable,” according to four people on the call.
While he refrained from criticizing anyone in the Biden administration, Fauci “questioned why so many people felt comfortable gathering maskless indoors amid a fresh surge in Covid cases,” Politico wrote on Friday.
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White House COVID Response Coordinator Ashish Jha, who attended the dinner after previously downplaying health concerns about the event, was on the call but reportedly did not respond to Fauci’s remarks.
“Looking back on it, I’m wondering what the hell was going through Ashish’s mind at that point,” one of the call attendees told Politico.
Both President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden as well as other top administration officials attended the WHCD on Saturday, but there has been a reported outbreak of COVID among journalists who went to the event, though it is unclear if they contracted the virus at the dinner.
Among the journalists who caught COVID-19 was ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl, who was seen shaking Biden’s hand at the dinner.
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Fauci previously announced that he would not be attending the dinner, citing COVID concerns.
However, the NIAID director was caught maskless attending a pre-dinner party, taking a picture with CNN anchor Don Lemon.
In recent weeks, Fauci had been sending mixed signals about whether the U.S. was finally moving past the pandemic.
Fauci told PBS NewsHour, “We are certainly right now in this country out of the pandemic phase.” He later offered a “clarification.”
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“I probably should have said the acute component of the pandemic phase. And I understand how that can lead to some misinterpretation,” Fauci told NPR. “I was talking about the acute fomenting phase, and everyone agrees we’re not there. We’re not getting 900,000 new infections a day.”
“Is the pandemic still here? Absolutely,” Fauci said. “So when I said phase, I probably should have said the acute stage of the pandemic phase. We’re now transitioning, not there yet, but transitioning to more of an endemicity where the level of infections is low enough that people are starting to learn to live with the virus still protecting themselves by vaccination, by the availability of antivirals, by testing. So I really meant the acute phase as opposed to pandemic.”