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The country had recorded more than 28 million COVID-19 cases and 500,054 fatalities as of Monday afternoon, according to a Reuters tally of public health data. In an interview with Reuters, Fauci on Monday said the pandemic arrived in the United States as the country was riven by political divisions in which wearing a mask became a political statement rather than a public health measure.
"Even under the best of circumstances, this would have been a very serious problem," Fauci said, noting that despite strong adherence to public health measures, countries such as Germany and the UK struggled with the virus.
"However, that does not explain how a rich and sophisticated country can have the most percentage of deaths and be the hardest-hit country in the world," said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a top adviser to President Joe Biden. "That, I believe, should not have happened."
While the United States has just about 4% of the global population, it has recorded nearly 20% of all COVID-19 deaths.
ANTHONY FAUCI: At the end of the day, everybody got hit really badly. I mean, if you look at even the ones that thought that they were doing so great, like Germany and the UK and the EU, as it turns out, everybody had a problem.
However-- a big however-- that does not explain how a rich and sophisticated country can have the most percentage of deaths and the-- be the hardest-hit country in the world. That, I believe, should not have happened.
I try to analyze what the-- the most compelling reason why we've done worse than we should have done. And I don't know if this is true. But it feels this way to me as a public health person-- that if ever you did not want to have an outbreak of any sort in a certain condition, it would be in a condition where there was intense divisiveness in society, which is what we have.
There's red states and blue states that, you know, are almost hostile to each other, in some respects, because of political differences. I think that's the worst possible ingredients to be able to address an outbreak of an infection that even under the best of circumstances would be a formidable challenge.
And then the mixed signals that we were getting from the White House-- I mean, you can't deny that, where you have the medical people saying, please adhere to these guidelines. And then you have the president saying, liberate Virginia, liberate Michigan. That's not helpful.
You know, I have an abiding faith, I thought, in the American spirit.
But when the American spirit is so divided, that really made me sad because it-- in other words, when you have divisions and it's in a political issue that doesn't have to do with life and death, you can say, well, you know, he's got his opinion. They have their opinion. Who cares? You know, more taxes, less taxes, more this, that-- but when it has to do with the lives of people, and now we have a situation where we've reached a landmark that is stunning in its magnitude-- this is the worst thing that's happened to this country with regard to the health of the nation in over 100 years, you know? And people 20, 30, 40, 50, maybe even 100 years from now are going to be talking about this, about that horrible year of 2020 and maybe into 2021, you know? I mean, that's the point.