Amid politicized pandemic, Fauci says 'trust me'

"It doesn't matter who you are or what you are - you're a Republican, Democrat, anything, anybody else - we're all in this together."

Speaking in an online forum hosted by Georgetown University on Tuesday (July 14), leading infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci fielded questions from both students and faculty, several of whom asked about how a divisive political climate has impacted safety guidance during the coronavirus pandemic and who the American public should trust.

"I believe, for the most part, you can trust respected medical authorities. You know, I believe I'm one of them. So I think you can trust me. But I would stick with respected medical authorities who have a track record of telling the truth... But it's entirely understandable how the public can get mixed messages and then get a bit confused about what they should do."

Tensions between Fauci and President Donald Trump have risen in recent days, as Trump faces increasing criticism over his handling of the outbreak.

"Frankly, if we didn't test, you wouldn't have all the headlines because we're showing cases."

On Tuesday, during a lengthy speech in the Rose Garden, Trump lamented the rising number of cases in the U.S. and again sought to put the onus on increased testing.

"If we did half the testing, we'd have half the cases. If we did another... you cut that in half, we'd have yet again half of that."

Earlier on Tuesday, Fauci said it wasn't that simple.

"I mean, obviously, the more you test, the more you're going to pick up. So an increase in testing is going to give you increases, but there is no doubt that there are more infections. And we know that because the percentage of cases of the... cases that are tested that are positive is increasing."

The United States has reported record numbers of new cases in recent days, with much of the surge coming from Arizona, California, Florida and Texas - which reported a record high for both cases and hospitalizations on Tuesday.

Fauci also said that opening schools, which are under pressure from Trump to resume classes, was a decision that should be up to local officials.

The nation's top disease expert also had some advice for what students can do in the meantime.

"Hang in there, do your thing and don't get involved in any of the political nonsense. That's a waste of time and a distraction."