Dr. Anthony Fauci on Friday called the White House’s ceremony for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett a “super-spreader event” for the coronavirus after the president and a number of attendees tested positive for the virus in its aftermath.
Fauci’s comments came during an interview with CBS News’ Steven Portnoy, in which Portnoy noted that most of the president’s aides had not worn masks until recently and asked what people can learn about the efficacy of mask-wearing as a strategy for preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
“The data speak for themselves,” said Fauci, the director of the National institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We had a super-spreader event in the White House. And it was in a situation where people were crowded together, were not wearing masks. So the data speaks for themselves.”
While the White House had a testing system in place in an effort to detect virus cases, a number of attendees including the president, several top staffers, senators and military officials tested positive following the September 26 event in the White House Rose Garden.
Guests mostly chose to forgo mask-wearing and sat close together both indoors and outdoors during the event.
Fauci stressed the importance of mask wearing, pointing to asymptomatic carriers of the virus as a “substantial part of the people that actually transmit infections to other people.”
Because those infected with the coronavirus can take up to 14 days to show symptoms, or never show symptoms at all, while still being contagious, universal mask wearing would be “the better part of the recommendation.”
Fauci added that saying there is a “cure” available for COVID-19 is inaccurate, as only therapeutics to treat, but not cure, the virus are currently available.
“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.”
President Trump was hospitalized last week and treated with a slew of experimental therapies, including the antiviral remdesivir, the steroid dexamethasone and an antibody cocktail made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.
In videos shared on Twitter earlier this week, Trump referred to the Regeneron antibody cocktail as a “cure,” which experts have said is misleading. He said he plans to grant an emergency-use authorization to the Regeneron drug, though it hasn’t been cleared by U.S. regulators.
“They gave me Regeneron — other things, too — but I think this was the key. They gave me Regeneron and it was, like, unbelievable. I felt good immediately,” Trump said. “They call them therapeutic, but to me it wasn’t just therapeutic, it made me better. I call that a cure.”