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As coronavirus surges, Trump and White House attack Fauci

Hospitals across the U.S. are facing a widespread surge of coronavirus patients as new infection records continue to be set. Given the rising case numbers, some officials are calling for a return to more restrictions on residents and businesses. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is stepping up criticism of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. Yamiche Alcindor reports.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    The rollback of reopenings is growing tonight, as the coronavirus explosion gains new energy.

    But the man leading the public health fight is increasingly a target himself.

    White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor begins our coverage.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    At hospitals nationwide, the focus is on the wave of new COVID infections. At the White House, the focus has shifted to attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert.

    Today, President Trump retweeted critical posts about Fauci. That came after the doctor publicly and repeatedly corrected the president's misstatements. Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino even posted a cartoon of Fauci as a water faucet that needed to be turned off, and branding the scientist as — quote — "cowardly."

    But, this afternoon, the president took a milder tack.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci. I have had for a long time, right from the beginning. I find him to be a very nice person. I don't always agree with him.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president himself has often made misleading statements about the virus. He has wrongly said that 99 percent of the cases are harmless and repeatedly claimed the virus will simply disappear.

    But White House aides insist that it is Fauci who has often been wrong about the pandemic. Fauci did initially discourage the broader public from wearing masks. He has since said officials took that stance in the beginning because they knew shortages were so bad that medical professionals couldn't get enough.

    Early on, Fauci also said, historically, respiratory-borne viruses are rarely transmitted through asymptomatic people. Since then, as more he and others have learned about COVID-19, he has said asymptomatic is more prevalent than other viruses.

    For his part, Dr. Fauci has said that the science around the virus is constantly evolving. Today, he spoke out again about the increase in nationwide cases.

  • Anthony Fauci:

    We did not shut down entirely, and that's the reason why we went up. We started to come down, and then we plateaued at a level that was really quite high, about 20,000 infections a day.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    All of this comes as Florida has set a national single-day record for new cases and intensive care units across the state fill to the brim.

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis:

    We can't get swept away in fear. We have to understand what's going on, understand that we do need — that we have a long road ahead.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Still, Disney World in Orlando began its phased reopening this weekend, as mask-clad visitors flocked the park.

    But, today, California ordered all restaurants, movie theaters and bars in the state to close down again. It also called for shopping malls, barbershops and places of worship to close in half of the state.

    Texas has also been hard-hit, and officials in Houston are now calling for the state to halt its reopening efforts and reimpose a lockdown.

  • Houston’s Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner:

  • Sylvester Turner:

    Step back a couple of weeks, let's look at the numbers, look at the data, see where things are, and then gradually move forward again.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Today, the state Supreme Court upheld Houston's refusal to host the state Republican convention in that city as an in-person event.

    Mayor Turner said it simply could not do so safely. Republican leaders say they will consider their next steps.

    Meanwhile, hospitals are buckling under surging admissions. And, on Sunday, White House coronavirus testing czar Admiral Brett Giroir, pushed the use of masks.

  • Brett Giroir:

    We have to have like 90 percent of people wearing a mask in public in the hot spot areas. If we don't have that, we will not get control of the virus.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    That came just a day after President Trump visited a military hospital in Maryland. There, he wore a mask in public for the very first time.

    At the same time, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Sunday continued the president's push to reopen schools in the fall.

  • Betsy DeVos:

    There's nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Other nations are wrestling with the same questions and the same surge in infections. In Mexico, officials there say more than 35,000 people have died from the virus, now the fourth highest tally in the world.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.

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