WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday criticized comments Dr. Anthony Fauci made during a Tuesday congressional hearing about the risks of reopening the country too soon as "not an acceptable answer."
"I was surprised by his answer actually because, you know, to me it's not an acceptable answer especially when it comes to schools," Trump said during a meeting with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis in the Cabinet Room of the White House Wednesday afternoon.
"He wants to play all sides of the equation," Trump said of Fauci, before emphasizing his confidence that the economy would quickly rebound from the pandemic.
"I think we're going to have a tremendous fourth quarter," Trump said.
Trump has repeatedly contradicted his top infectious disease expert, painting an overly rosy picture of a country that he says is ready to begin to return to normal.
Testifying by videoconference Tuesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Fauci warned of serious consequences if governors reopen state economies too soon.
"My concern, that if some areas, city, states or what have you jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks," Fauci said in response to a question from Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
Trump, however, pushed for schools to reopen Wednesday, telling reporters "I think they should open the schools, absolutely."
"Our country has to get back and it has to get back as soon as possible and I don't consider our country coming back if the schools are closed," he added.
Fauci sounded a note of caution about reopening schools in the fall, telling senators that "we just have to see on a step-by-step basis as we get into the period of time with the fall about reopening the schools, exactly where we will be in the dynamics of the outbreak." He noted that because the pandemic is affecting regions differently, "it's not going to be universally or homogeneous."
"Anthony is a good person, a very good person. I’ve disagreed with him," Trump said in a taped interview with Fox Business News, a clip of which was released Wednesday. "I totally disagree with him on schools."
On Tuesday, California State University, the country’s largest four-year university system, announced that nearly all on-campus classes would be canceled for the fall semester and would take place online instead. Other universities are considering moving fall classes online, too.
"Now will you have an incident?," Trump continued, acknowledging the possibility that reopening schools could come at a cost.
"Will something happen? Perhaps. But you can be driving to school and something can happen too."