Fauci Says COVID Death Toll One Year In Would Have ‘Shocked Me Completely’ At Outset

COVID-19 White House expert Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks before receiving his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health on December 22, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Semansky... COVID-19 White House expert Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks before receiving his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health on December 22, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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March 11, 2021 10:16 a.m.

White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday he would have been “shocked” to hear a year ago that the U.S. coronavirus death toll would  reach more than 500,000 in just one year.

“It would have shocked me completely,” Fauci told NBC’s “Today” in an interview marking the one year anniversary since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, when asked if he was surprised by the number of lives claimed by COVID-19. “I mean, I knew we were in for trouble.” 

Fauci’s comments remarking on the staggering figure of more than half a million deaths due to coronavirus follows earlier projections by the Trump administration that painted a much different picture of the impact of the virus. 

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“We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people,” then-President Donald Trump said in a May 3 virtual town hall meeting at the Lincoln Memorial hosted by Fox News.

In April, Trump had suggested the outbreak could be kept “substantially below the 100,000” mark and even as low as 50,000.

Fauci on Thursday recalled his own declaration during a congressional hearing a year ago that the American reality amid the pandemic would get much worse before it got better, “but I did not in my mind think that ‘much worse’ was going to be 525,000 deaths,” he said.

Fauci criticized the politicization of the safety measures that had been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to mitigate the spread of the virus — precautions that had been largely flouted and even ridiculed by Trump as the virus ravaged the country last year.

“We had such divisiveness in our country that even simple common sense public health measures took on a political connotation,” Faui said, adding: “It wasn’t a pure public health approach, it was very much influenced by the divisiveness we have in this country.”

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