President Donald Trump on Wednesday directly criticized Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, for voicing caution about the push to reopen schools, downplaying the threat that COVID-19 could pose to young children and ignoring warnings that kids could spread the virus to vulnerable people.
Trump told reporters gathered in the Cabinet Room of the White House that he was "surprised" by Fauci's warning during Senate testimony this week that states should be careful about sending children back to school.
"To me it's not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools," the president said. "The only thing that would be acceptable, as I said, is professors, teachers, et cetera over a certain age, I think they ought to take it easy for another few weeks."
"This is a disease that attacks age, and it attacks health," Trump continued. "But with the young children, I mean, and students . . . just take a look at the statistics. It's pretty amazing . . . I think that they should open the schools, absolutely."
Recent opinion polling has shown that the U.S. public trusts Fauci more than Trump by a wide margin when it comes to information about the coronavirus.
Watch Trump's remarks:
Scientists have expressed uncertainty about the threat COVID-19 poses to children as well as the possibility that kids could spread the virus to at-risk teachers, family members, and others. Fauci echoed that view during his Senate testimony on Tuesday, pushing back against assumptions that children are immune from the effects of the virus.
"I think we better be careful, if we are not cavalier, in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects," Fauci told senators. "You're right in the numbers that children in general do much, much better than adults and the elderly and particularly those with underlying conditions. But I am very careful, and hopefully humble in knowing that I don't know everything about this disease. And that's why I'm very reserved in making broad predictions."
The New York Times reported Wednesday that research published in the journal Lancet provides the "the strongest evidence yet" that pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome — a dangerous and potentially fatal condition — is linked to the coronavirus.
As for who the public should believe on matters related to COVID-19, Rep. Don Beyer tweeted that "this isn't complicated."
"Dr. Fauci is a highly decorated scientist and doctor, a respected medical expert who spent his life leading American efforts to fight infectious diseases," said Beyer. "Trump is a compulsive liar who suggested we could fight COVID-19 by injecting people with bleach."