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Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious diseases expert, told CNN on Monday that the Trump campaign should stop airing an ad that uses comments he made without his permission and out of context.

Why it matters: Fauci describes himself as apolitical and says he has never endorsed a political candidate in five decades of public service. He later told The Daily Beast there's "not a chance" that he would resign if the Trump campaign continued to feature him, but added, "By doing this against my will, they are in effect harassing me."

Context: A Trump campaign ad released on Saturday features a clip of Fauci saying, "I can't imagine that ... anybody could be doing any more." The clip appears edited to seem like Fauci is talking about President Trump. Fauci told CNN Sunday he made the comments months ago and was speaking broadly about federal health officials.

What they're saying: When CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked how Fauci would react if the campaign made another ad that featured him, Fauci responded, "That would be terrible. I mean that would be outrageous if they do that."

  • "In fact, that might actually come back to backfire on them. I hope they don't do that because that would be kind of playing a game that we don't want to play."
  • Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh defended the ad in a statement on Monday, saying that “these are Dr. Fauci’s own words."
  • "The video is from a nationally broadcast television interview in which Dr. Fauci was praising the work of the Trump administration. The words spoken are accurate, and directly from Dr. Fauci’s mouth," Murtaugh added.

The big picture: Asked about President Trump's decision to continue having large campaign events that don't require attendees to wear a mask or social distance, Fauci said holding political rallies "is asking for trouble" — especially as the U.S. heads toward a winter season that could bring even higher rates of infection.

  • "We have seen that when you have situations of congregate settings where there are a lot of people without masks, the data speak for themselves. It happens. And now is even more so a worse time to do that," Fauci said.
  • "Because when you look at what's going on in the United States, it's really very troublesome. A number of states right now are having increases in test positivity. States above the Sun Belt, states in the Sun Belt. If you look at the map with the color coding of cases and states that are going up, you see states in the Northwest and the Midwest. It’s going in the wrong direction right now."

What to expect: Fauci noted on CNN that the coming cooler months would be a "recipe of a real problem if we don't get things under control before we get into that seasonal challenge."

  • During an appearance on CNBC later Monday, Fauci said the U.S. could prevent spikes occurring if Americans did "five fundamental things": universal mask-wearing, maintaining physical distance, avoiding crowds, "doing things more outdoors as opposed to indoors," and washing hands frequently.
  • "We've got to stop thinking that we exist in a vacuum only for ourselves," he said. "We're all in this together. We're all part of a society that's either going to get hurt or is going to get helped by our actions."

Go deeper: The onset of winter will make the coronavirus pandemic even worse

Editor's note: This article has been updated with Fauci's comments on CNBC

Go deeper

Jan 19, 2021 - Health

U.S. surpasses 400,000 coronavirus deaths on Trump's final full day in office

Expand chart
Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Over 400,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the U.S. as of Tuesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

Why it matters: It only took a little over a month for the U.S. to reach this mass casualty after 300,000 COVID deaths were reported last month. That's over 100,000 fatalities in 36 days.

Jan 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."

Jan 19, 2021 - World

Biden will bring U.S. into COVAX vaccine initiative, Blinken says

Data: Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance; Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Secretary of State designate Tony Blinken announced in a confirmation hearing on Tuesday that President-elect Biden would bring the U.S. into the COVAX initiative — the global effort from the World Health Organization and other groups to ensure that every country has access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Why it matters: Virtually the entire world has signed onto COVAX, apart from the U.S. and Russia. It's expected to be the only source of vaccines for some of the world's poorest countries, and it needs additional funding to fulfill its goal of vaccinating at least 20% of the population in every country by the end of 2021.