U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday rejected a warning given by top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci about the dangers of reopening the economy and schools too quickly.
“To me it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools,” Trump said at the White House.
He was responding to a reporter’s question on the issue.
Fauci directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is on the COVID-19 task force set up by Trump.
He also warned in a virtual hearing with the Senate on Monday that a premature lifting of lockdowns could lead to additional outbreaks of the deadly coronavirus.
So far, the virus has killed more than 82,000 people in the United States and brought the economy to its knees.
Trump, in contrast, said the only thing that would be acceptable would be professors or teachers “over a certain age” not holding classes.
“I think they ought to take it easy for another few weeks,” he added.
Trump has made the strength of the economy central to his pitch for re-election in November.
He has therefore encouraged states to reopen businesses and schools that were shuttered to halt the spread of the highly contagious respiratory disease.
Fauci, 79, a proponent of the lockdowns, has become a target for criticism from the American far right and online conspiracy theorists since he made statements about the outbreak that were at odds with Trump’s.
In April, Trump retweeted a call to fire Fauci, after the doctor said lives could have been saved if the country had shut down sooner, spurring speculation his days in the administration could be numbered.
“Anthony is a good person, a very good person, I’ve disagreed with him,” Trump said in an interview earlier on Wednesday with Fox Business Network’s “Mornings with Maria,” repeating his refrain that the country must reopen.
“We want to do it safely, but we also want to do it as quickly as possible. … We have to get it open. I totally disagree with him on schools,” Trump said.
Asked about Trump’s comments, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN that Fauci was “sounding an honest voice of caution and I share his view.”
“I think we have to be very careful about the steps we take.”