America's top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci says he was "absolutely not" surprised when Donald Trump contracted COVID-19 after seeing the president surrounded by several people not wearing face masks and flouting best public health practices against the deadly pandemic.
Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases appeared to be referring to the White House Rose Garden event on September 26 where Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett was his pick to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. At least 12 people have tested positive for Covid-19 after attending the function.
Fauci said during an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" that was aired on Sunday, "I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded -- no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask."
"When I saw that on TV, I said, 'Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come out of that, that's got to be a problem,'" he said.
"And then sure enough, it turned out to be a superspreader event."
His remarks came as Americans face another surge in the COVID-19 pandemic ahead of the November 3 US presidential election. Infections have crossed the 8-million mark and are rising rapidly. Over 2,19,000 people have died due to the disease, according to latest Johns Hopkins University.
Even though the ceremony was held outdoors and many attendees were tested before being allowed in, photos and videos of the event showed few people wearing masks, many people greeting each other with hugs and handshakes, and people mingling and sitting very closely, CNN reported.
There were also smaller, private gatherings inside the White House that did not include the mask-wearing or social distancing that public health experts have advised is essential to stopping the spread of the virus, the report noted.
Fauci had previously labelled the event as a "superspreader" -- noting the lack of public health measures in place and the slate of positive tests that followed.
"The data speak for themselves," he said.
Trump announced that he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for coronavirus, just days after the Rose Garden event. The 74-year-old president was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and received various treatments before returning to the White House.
Upon his release, the President told his followers that the virus that had hospitalised him for 72 hours discharge from hospital, was nothing to fear. He also posed for a mask-less photo-op on the White House balcony, sending a message to his supporters that he was not afraid of the disease.
"Don't be afraid of Covid. Don't let it dominate your life," Trump wrote several hours before walking carefully out the hospital.
During the interview with the CBS, Fauci said it does not make sense to him why Trump "equates wearing a mask with weakness."
Masks, Fauci maintained, "really do work."