It wasn’t until mid-July, after nearly 135,000 Americans had died from COVID-19, that President Trump finally allowed himself to be photographed wearing a mask in public, and recommended that others do the same. In previous months, the president had not only failed to implement a federal mask mandate but also spoken out against mask-wearing as an effective deterrent to the novel coronavirus, and disturbing reports have revealed how the Trump administration has repeatedly meddled with CDC guidance on how Americans should handle COVID-19.

On top of all that, the Trump administration has refused to hold any press conferences with the top infectious disease expert in the country, Dr. Anthony Fauci, for months.

The result of this astonishing lack of leadership at the top has been mass confusion over what the best course of action is, and the politicization of a deadly airborne virus that kills indiscriminately.

On Monday night, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah welcomed Dr. Fauci onto the program to try to cut through the noise. And Dr. Fauci, who’s served as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, addressed how the Trump administration had turned mask-wearing and the prospect of reopening the country into a partisan debate.

“Public health measures should be more of a gateway and a pathway to opening the country as opposed to the obstacle to opening the country,” explained Dr. Fauci. “So what has evolved now is that people almost take sides, like wearing a mask or not is a political statement, and that’s really very unfortunate—totally unfortunate—because this is a purely public health issue. It should not be one against the other.”

“I think the confused messages that you’re alluding to [from Trump and the CDC] correctly and appropriately is you don’t have a single message when messages get thrown into political buckets, and that’s something that I really wish that conversations like you and I are having now would dispel that.”

While some Trump supporters have repeatedly labeled Dr. Fauci as some sort of “deep state” operative—with certain powerful Trump factions even pushing the ludicrous and baseless conspiracy theory that Dr. Fauci was somehow responsible for the creation of the coronavirus, and one of Dr. Fauci’s own employees at the NIH busted by The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay spreading COVID misinformation on right-wing blogs—he maintained to host Trevor Noah that his advice regarding COVID-19 has nothing to do with with which side of the aisle he or anyon is on.

“Goodness sakes, I’ve never had any political ideology that I’ve made public. I’m really just talking to you about public health,” Dr. Fauci offered. “When I’m telling you to wear a mask, keep social distancing, avoid crowds, wash your hands, do things outdoors more than indoors—there’s nothing political about that. That’s a public health message that we know works.”

He concluded: “We have within our capability the ability to turn this around.”

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