"Public health is something that has really nothing to do with politics," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, who serves in what has become one of the most politicized jobs in Washington these days as a top medical advisor on the pandemic to outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump.
The White House coronavirus advisor, speaking at The New York Times' Dealbook conference on Tuesday, said a Nov. 13 tweet saying masks were "oppressive" from incoming House Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., was "really very disturbing."
"This is the worst outbreak that we've had of a respiratory-borne illness that we've had in 102 years. You can't run away from the data. It's incomprehensible to me how people are not seeing that," Fauci said during a livestream interview.
He said the U.S. needs uniform public health measures to suppress the virus' spread instead of a piecemeal approach taken by different states and counties.
Coronavirus outbreaks are growing in nearly every corner of the U.S. The country is reporting a weekly average of roughly 155,310 new coronavirus cases every day, hitting record highs as scientists warn Americans that the next few months of the pandemic could be the worst yet.
Some states, such as Washington, Oregon and New Mexico, have recently instituted statewide measures to tamp down the virus' spread, closing nonessential businesses and clamping down on group gatherings. Meanwhile, other states have taken a less-severe approach to their growing coronavirus outbreaks in an effort to keep businesses open.
While there will be differing tactics among the states depending on the level of infections, there are "certain fundamental core public health measures" that everyone should do to prevent the virus from spreading, Fauci said. He has consistently recommended that people use face coverings, stay 6 feet apart, avoid crowds, wash their hands and opt for outdoor activities over indoors when possible.
"This is going to be a difficult task. We have to do outreach and get this out of the political realm. This is not a political issue," he said.
While some Republican governors and President Donald Trump have resisted the idea of mandating the use of face coverings, some state leaders, such as Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, have recently reversed course on the issue.
"If one element of the country or multiple elements of the country don't cooperate with an infectious disease, we are going to continue to be in trouble," Fauci said. "We've got to do everything we possibly can to pull together as a nation, not individual factions having differences that spill over into public health."
Those public health measures will be necessary into next year as the pandemic subsides, even as the U.S. begins to roll out a Covid-19 vaccine, Fauci said. Returning to some semblance of normal life in 2021 will depend on how many people are inoculated against the virus, he said, adding that at least 75% of the population will likely need to get vaccinated for the country to get there.
"As we get into the fall [of 2021], we could be quite close to some degree of normality, certainly from the standpoint of the economy, of getting businesses open, of getting sports events being attended to, that is feasible," he said.