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President Trump and NIAID director Anthony Fauci during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in April. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci praised the Biden campaign's coronavirus stance, criticized White House adviser Scott Atlas and offered a bleak assessment of the U.S. pandemic response in an interview with the Washington Post, published Saturday.

Why it matters: Fauci's comments are perhaps his most frank yet and come as COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. The White House called Fauci's remarks three days out from the election "unacceptable." Atlas publicly responded to his fellow coronavirus task force member in a tweet late Saturday.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Driving the news: In the wide-ranging interview conducted Friday, Fauci said the U.S. was "in for a whole lot of hurt" going into the fall and winter, with people congregating indoors. "You could not possibly be positioned more poorly," he noted.

  • On presidential candidate Joe Biden's approach to the pandemic, Fauci said the Democrat's campaign "is taking it seriously from a public health perspective."
  • President Trump is "looking at it from a different perspective," on "the economy and reopening the country," Fauci said.
  • On Atlas, a radiologist, Fauci said: "I have real problems with that guy. He's a smart guy who’s talking about things that I believe he doesn’t have any real insight or knowledge or experience in. He keeps talking about things that when you dissect it out and parse it out, it doesn’t make any sense."

Context: Twitter took down a tweet by Atlas for making false claims about face masks in October. He also made false comments on herd immunity.

What they're saying: White House spokesman Judd Deere said in an emailed statement, "It's unacceptable and breaking with all norms for Dr. Fauci, a senior member of the President's Coronavirus Taskforce and someone who has praised President Trump's actions throughout this pandemic, to choose three days before an election to play politics."

"As a member of the Task Force, Dr. Fauci has a duty to express concerns or push for a change in strategy, but he's not done that, instead choosing to criticize the President in the media and make his political leanings known by praising the President's opponent."

The big picture: The U.S. has for months reported the highest COVID-19 death toll and infection numbers in the world.

  • The country hit some grim COVID-19 milestones in the past week, surpassing 9 million cases on Friday and setting a single-day record of 88,452 new infections a day earlier.
  • More than 230,500 people have died from the virus and over 9.1 million tested positive as of Sunday morning, per Johns Hopkins.
  • A representative for Fauci did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Go deeper

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
Jan 29, 2021 - Health

J&J says its one-shot vaccine is 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID

Photo: Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson announced Friday that its single-shot coronavirus vaccine was 66% effective in protecting against moderate to severe COVID-19 disease in Phase 3 trials, which was comprised of nearly 44,000 participants across eight countries.

Between the lines: The vaccine was 72% effective in the U.S., but only 57% effective in South Africa, where a more contagious variant has been spreading. It prevented 85% of severe infections and 100% of hospitalizations and deaths, according to the company.

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Germany to impose travel restrictions to curb spread of coronavirus variants

Border police officers check passports and COVID-19 tests at Frankfurt Airport. Photo: Thomas Lohnes via Getty Images

Germany announced Friday that it was imposing new travel restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of more contagious coronavirus variants.

Details: All non-German residents traveling from countries deemed "areas of variant concern," including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Portugal, Ireland, Brazil, Lesotho and Eswatini, will be banned from entering the country, even if they test negative for the coronavirus.