Dr. Anthony Fauci: Hypothetical Questions Can Get You Into Some Difficulty

Melanie Arter | April 13, 2020 | 7:32pm EDT
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(Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stressed Monday that President Donald Trump heeded the advice of the White House Coronavirus Task Force during every step of the pandemic, including implementing stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions.

During the White House press briefing, Dr. Fauci clarified comments he made Sunday in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union with Jake Tapper.”

As CNSNews.com reported, Fauci was asked if lives could have been saved if social distancing and stay-at-home measures had started the third week of February instead of mid-March.

“You know, Jake, again, it's the what would have, what could have. It's very difficult to go back and say that. I mean, obviously, you could logically say, that if you had a process that was ongoing, and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives,” Fauci told CNN.

“Obviously, no one is going to deny that, but what goes into those kinds of decisions is complicated, but you're right. I mean, obviously, if we had, right from the very beginning, shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different, but there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then,” he said.

At the White House briefing, Fauci started by saying that hypothetical questions “sometimes can get you into some difficulty, because it’s what would have or could have.”

“The nature of the hypothetical question was if in fact we had mitigated earlier could lives have been saved, and the answer to my question was as I always do, and I’m doing right now perfectly honestly, say yes. I mean honestly mitigation helps. I’ve been up here many times telling you that mitigation works,” he said.

“So if mitigation works and you initiate it earlier, you will probably have saved more lives. If you initiated it later, you probably would have lost more lives. You initiate at a certain time. That was taken as a way that maybe somehow something was at fault here. Let me tell you from my experience -- and I can only speak for my own experience -- is that we had been talking before any meetings we had about the pros and cons, the effectiveness or not of strong mitigations. So discussions were going on mostly among the medical people about what that would mean,” Fauci said.

Fauci said that he and Dr. Deborah Birx, response coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, formally recommended to President Donald Trump that he order “strong mitigation.”


The first and only time that Dr. Birx and I went in and formally made a recommendation to the president to actually have a, quote, shutdown in the sense of not really shutdown, but to really have strong mitigation, we discussed it.

Obviously, there would be concern by some and in fact that might have some negative consequences. Nonetheless, the president listened and went to the mitigation. The next second time that I went with Dr. Birx into the president and said 15 days are not enough, we need to go 30 days, obviously there were people who had a problem with that because of the potential secondary effects. 

Nonetheless, at that time the president went with the health recommendations and we extended it another 30 days. So I can only tell you what I know and what my recommendations were, but clearly, as happens all of the time, there were interpretations of that response to a hypothetical question that I just thought it would be very nice for me to clarify because I didn't have the chance to clarify.


When asked whether the president issued travel restrictions at that time, Fauci said, “No, the travel restriction is separate. That was whether or not we wanted to go into a mitigation stage, 15 days. 

“The travel was another recommendation when we went in and said we probably should be doing that, and the answer was yes. And then another time it was we should do it with Europe, and the answer was yes, and the next time we should do it with the UK, and the answer was yes,” he said.

Fauci said that the term “pushback” was “the wrong choice of words.”

“You know what it was, when people discuss - not necessarily in front of the president - when people discuss, they say well this is going to have maybe have a harmful effect on this or that, so it was a poor choice of words. There wasn’t anybody saying, no, you shouldn’t do that,” he said.

When asked if he was clarifying his comments “voluntarily,” Fauci said, “Everything I do is voluntary. Please, don’t even imply that.”

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