One of America's top infectious disease experts, Dr Anthony Fauci, has admitted the country is "just not" doing well in its efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Fauci, who is a senior member of the White House's Coronavirus Task Force, has been issuing increasingly ominous warnings in recent days.

The latest came during an interview with FiveThirtyEight's weekly coronavirus podcast.

"How do you think the US is doing right now? If you're looking across the world, what are your feelings about how we're doing right now?" host Anna Rothschild asked.

Advertisement

"Well, let me say that there are parts of the United States, like where you live right now [New York], that are doing really well. That you've been through something really bad and you have things under control," Fauci said.

"Other cities are doing well. But as a country, when you compare us to other countries, I don't think you can say we're doing great. I mean, we're just not."

That assessment directly contradicts President Donald Trump, who said the US was "in a good place" this week, and would soon be "in very good shape".

The country has recorded 3.2 million infections, and its death toll stands at 136,000.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Photo / AP
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Photo / AP

New York was the original epicentre of the outbreak in the US. The infection rate there is now declining, but it is rising sharply in other areas of the country, particularly in the southern and western states.

It has been suggested that some states moved to relax restrictions and reopen their economies too quickly, before the virus was under control. Fauci reinforced that view.

"Are you saying that it's a mix of politicians not following guidelines and people not following orders?" Rothschild asked.

"Yes. It is both," Fauci replied.

Advertisement

"I mean, it's not a uni-dimensional thing, it's complicated. There are some governors and mayors that did it perfectly correctly. They stayed exactly. They wanted to open up, so they went through the guidelines of opening up their state.

"But what happened is that many of the citizenry said, 'You know, well, I'm either going to be locked down or I'm going to let it all rip'. You could see from just looking – documented on TV and in the papers – photos of people at bars and congregations, which are the perfect set-up [for the virus to spread], particularly if you don't have a mask.

"Yeah, then there are some times when, despite the guidelines and the recommendations to open up carefully and prudently, some states skipped over those and just opened up too quickly."

He said that Florida, to name one example, had "jumped over a couple of checkpoints" in its haste to reopen.

In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity today, Trump was asked to address the "recent rise in outbreaks".

A health care worker prepares to test a driver in line at a drive-thru Covid-19 testing site outside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Photo / AP
A health care worker prepares to test a driver in line at a drive-thru Covid-19 testing site outside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Photo / AP

"What do you make of these hotspots, as we call them, in Florida and Texas and other states, and Dr Fauci's comments?" Hannity asked.

Advertisement

"First of all, the mortality rate – and Dr Fauci is a nice man, but he's made a lot of mistakes," Trump responded.

"A lot of [the experts] said, 'Don't wear a mask, don't wear a mask'. Now they are saying, 'Wear a mask'. A lot of mistakes were made, a lot of mistakes."

Last month, Fauci was asked why Americans were initially told they didn't need to wear masks. He said there were concerns, at the time, about hospitals and health workers running out of personal protective equipment.

"Even though there appears to be some contradiction of, 'You were saying this then, why are you saying this now?' actually the circumstances have changed. That is the reason," Fauci said.

Trump downplayed the extent of the new outbreaks, repeating his claim that the number of cases are only rising because the United States conducts so many tests.

"We do testing like nobody's ever done testing. And when we test, the more you test, the more cases you find," Trump said.

Advertisement

"Other countries, you know when they test? They have tests that are very limited. We have massive – 45 million people have been tested. And our tests are the best.

A statue of a chef at Florio's of Little Italy restaurant wears a protective face mask on the Hollywood Beach Boardwalk. Photo / AP
A statue of a chef at Florio's of Little Italy restaurant wears a protective face mask on the Hollywood Beach Boardwalk. Photo / AP

"We have cases all over the place. Most of the cases immediately get better, they are people, young people, they have sniffles and two days later they are fine and they are not sick to start off with. They are asymptomatic.

"A lot of things happen, and what we are doing with all of these tests that we are doing all over the country – test everybody, pull-up parking lots, everything else – what we've done is we've created a tremendous number of cases.

"Everybody else – can you imagine if China tested like we test? They don't."

Fauci's this week warned the US Senate the state of the pandemic was "really not good".

"We had been in a situation, we were averaging about 20,000 new cases a day. And then a series of circumstances associated with various states and cities trying to open up, in the sense of getting back to some form of normality, has led to a situation where we now have record-breaking cases," he told the Senate.

Advertisement

"Within a period of a week and a half, we've almost doubled the number of cases."

He said America was still "knee deep in the first wave" of the pandemic.

"If you look at the graphs from Europe – the European Union as an entity, it went up, and then it came down to baseline. Now they're having little blips, as you might expect, as they try to reopen. We went up, never came down to baseline, and now we're surging back up.

"It's a serious situation that we have to address immediately."

Trump disagreed with Fauci at the time.

"I think we are in a good place; I disagree with him," the President told Greta van Susteren, the host of a TV show called Full Court Press.

Advertisement

"We've done a good job. I think we are going to be – in two, three, four weeks, by the time we next speak, I think we are going to be in very good shape."