The White House's anti-China trade advisor has become Trump's attack dog against Dr. Fauci

By Lauren Frias

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Business Insider

Anti-China trade adviser has become the face of the White House's criticism of the country's top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.

White House trade advisor Peter Navarro penned an op-ed for USA Today Tuesday attacking Fauci, who serves on the White House coronavirus task force. The op-ed largely repeats what Navarro has previously said to other publications.

Navarro, who has no public health expertise, wrote that Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, "has been wrong about everything," claiming the White House and public health officials have been at odds over a number of issues, including stopping flights from China at the end of January. Navarro also said Fauci was "flip-flopping" on his use of face masks to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Fauci had explained that he discouraged the use of face masks at the beginning of the pandemic to reserve the little supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the national stockpile at the time for healthcare professionals at the frontlines.

Though he believes that face masks won't completely prevent transmission, Fauci now encourages the use of face masks — at the very least, cloth facial coverings — to contain viral particles that could be present in an individual's saliva, adding that social distancing is paramount to impede infection.

Fauci mask coronavirus testimony
Dr. Anthony Fauci at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on June 30, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Al Drago/Getty Images

The infectious disease expert remains optimistic about the timeline of a coronavirus vaccine within the coming year, though he has cautioned people against relying on hydroxychloroquine — an anti-malaria drug — as a coronavirus treatment given a lack of sufficient evidence of its effectiveness.

In the op-ed, Navarro claimed he showed Fauci "scientific studies providing evidence of safety and efficacy," despite a number of health experts saying it is still too soon to tell if the drug can safely treat the coronavirus. President Donald Trump also supported hydroxychloroquine as a treatment, even so far as to take it himself as a "preventative measure."

Coronavirus whistleblower and vaccine scientist Dr. Rick Bright also discouraged the use of hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment. He claimed in his whistleblower complaint that he was ousted from his top position at the Department of Health and Human Services because he refused to tout the drug as a treatment.

Now, as the US sees record-high surges in coronavirus cases, the White House has encouraged states to reopen without a comprehensive coronavirus testing and contact tracing infrastructure — a vital component to reopening the country safely, according to health experts.

Though seemingly unphased by the rising cases, as Trump referred to the rising cases as "embers" to be stamped out, Fauci has painted a much darker picture, calling the current situation of the pandemic his "worst nightmare."

"Now we have something that turned out to be my worst nightmare," he said. "In the period of four months, it has devastated the world."

Trump has attempted to assure Americans that the US by reiterating the low mortality rate of the virus.

"Now we have tested almost 40 million people. By so doing, we show cases, 99% of which are totally harmless," Trump said. "Results that no other country can show because no other country has the testing that we have, not in terms of the numbers or in terms of quality."

Navarro echoed the point in his op-ed, calling the lower mortality rate "the single most important statistic to help guide the pace of our economic reopening."

"The lower the mortality rate, the faster and more we can open," he wrote.

In stark contrast, the infectious disease expert said that taking "comfort" in the lower death rate could promote a "false narrative" on the development of the pandemic.

"There's so many other things that are very dangerous and very bad about this virus," Fauci said. "Don't get yourself into false complacency."