Anthony Fauci with President Trump on May 15. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with Stat News that his meetings with President Trump about the coronavirus have "dramatically decreased."

The big picture: Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease doctor and a key member of the White House's coronavirus task force, said he "was meeting with [the president] four times a week back, a month or so ago."

  • "We used to have task force meetings every single day, including Saturday and Sunday, and about 75% of the time after the task force meeting we’d meet with the president," Fauci said. "But as you probably noticed, that the task force meetings have not occurred as often lately."

Why it matters: The decline in Fauci's public appearances and meetings with Trump comes as the White House has sought to pivot to more of an economic message as states across the country continue to reopen. Axios reported in April that the top doctors on the task force would take a "back seat" to a more forward-looking, "what's next" message.

What he's saying: Fauci told Stat News he is cautiously optimistic about the development of a vaccine for the virus, saying it is an “aspirational," but "certainly doable" goal to have one by the end of the year. He also said he remains concerned about large gatherings of people as states reopen.

  • "I certainly have sensitivity for the need of the public to start getting to some form of normalization, given that we’ve been through more than three months of a very difficult time," Fauci said.
  • "But it’s a big country and the dynamics of the outbreak are different from one part of the country to another. If people want to get out, they’ve really got to gauge it with the level of the outbreak in their particular area."
  • "When I see a situation where there is a region, a state, a city, a county where there’s a considerable amount of viral activity there, and you see people crowding around bars — and there were several pictures of that, that was quite striking over the last couple of days — or on boardwalks, where they’re very, very close to each other, I do get concerned."

Go deeper: Coronavirus still has a foothold in the South

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The big picture: 34 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, have issued some form of mask mandate as infections surge across the country.

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Over half of Americans surveyed in a new NPR/Ipsos poll support a mandatory, nationwide order to shelter at home for two weeks to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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