President Trump again criticized Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, during a campaign rally in North Carolina on Thursday, claiming without evidence that the NIAID director is "a Democrat," and accusing him of downplaying the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Since the onset of the pandemic, Trump has repeatedly undermined Fauci, who has five decades of public service, describes himself as apolitical and is not registered with either party. In public statements and tweets, Trump has accused Fauci of blundering the government's response to the virus.

What he's saying: "And, yeah, my friend — and he's a nice guy — Tony, Tony Fauci," Trump said to his crowd of supporters, who booed in response.

  • "He said, 'This is not a threat; this is not a problem. Don't worry about it.' Then he said, 'Do not wear a mask. Do not wear a mask under any circumstances Don't wear a mask. Don't, don't don't,' right? Then we don't wear a mask. Then they say wear a mask."
  • "But he's a nice guy, so I keep him around, right? We keep him around. He's a Democrat, everybody knows that. He's [New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's] friend. Cuomo did the worst job of any governor in the United States."

The other side: "Give me a break — More than 216,000 Americans  died because of the federal government's incompetent and bumbling pandemic response and — Trump knew the whole time how deadly it was and never raised the alarm," Rich Azzopardi, senior adviser to Cuomo, said in statement.

The big picture: Multiple Trump administration health officials, not just Fauci, said that people did not need to wear face coverings to protect against the virus in the early days of the pandemic, but later reversed those recommendations.

  • U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who in February urged people to stop buying masks, said in July that he and other health officials initially feared that people would hoard personal protective equipment when hospitals had depleted supplies.
  • Fauci has supported the use of face masks for all Americans since the CDC advised accordingly in April.
  • Trump has routinely mocked people for wearing masks, even after top health officials have asked Americans to wear them to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Of note: Fauci said in a recent interview with CNN that he remains uninvolved in politics and has never endorsed a candidate. He has served in his position under both Democratic and Republican presidents.

Go deeper: Fauci says Trump campaign ad took his comments out of context

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
23 hours ago - Health

Many U.S. coronavirus deaths were avoidable

Data: National Center for Disaster Preparedness; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

If the U.S. death rate had matched that of other wealthy countries, between about 55,000 and 215,000 Americans would still be alive, according to a scathing new analysis by Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness.

Why it matters: These countries have taken a significantly different approach to the virus than the U.S., providing yet another example that things didn't have to be this way.

The pandemic is getting worse again

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Note: Due to a database error, Missouri had a 3 day gap in reporting from Oct. 11-13; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Every available piece of data proves it: The coronavirus pandemic is getting worse again, all across America.

The big picture: As the death toll ticks past 212,000, at a moment when containing the virus ought to be easier and more urgent than ever, we are instead giving it a bigger foothold to grow from.

How the coronavirus pandemic could end

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's still the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, but history, biology and the knowledge gained from our first nine months with COVID-19 point to how the pandemic might end.

The big picture: Pandemics don't last forever. But when they end, it usually isn't because a virus disappears or is eliminated. Instead, they can settle into a population, becoming a constant background presence that occasionally flares up in local outbreaks.