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Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, wearing a face mask, listens as President Donald J. Trump participates in a vaccine development event in the Rose Garden at the White House on Friday, May 15, 2020. (Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Feud Over NFL Season Highlights Trump's Covid-19 Recklessness vs. Fauci's Public Health Warnings

"It's easy to understand why Trump's Covid response has been such a disaster."

Eoin Higgins

President Donald Trump openly rebuked his National Institutes of Health director Dr. Anthony Fauci on Friday over the potential return of the NFL season this fall, suggesting one of the nation's top and most-trusted health experts should not be listened to on the topic of large gatherings and the Covid-19 threat.

Trump also took the opportunity to denounce any players—if and when playing does resume—to speak out or participate in protests against police brutality and racism.

"Tony Fauci has nothing to do with NFL Football," the president tweeted. "They are planning a very safe and controlled opening. However, if they don't stand for our National Anthem and our Great American Flag, I won't be watching!!!"

Fauci's comments Thursday morning to Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the NFL focused on the health risks of the intensely physical game as well as the league's plans to mitigate the danger of the pandemic. 

"Unless players are essentially in a bubble—insulated from the community, and they are tested nearly every day—it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall," said Fauci. "If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year."

As CNN reported, the return of the game is already complicated due to positive tests from earlier this week:

On Monday, several Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans players tested positive for the coronavirus, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero. None of the players were in the teams' facilities, and both teams followed proper health protocols, per the report.

When asked how the positive tests impact the league planning in terms of beginning training camps and the upcoming season, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told ESPN on Monday, "We expect we are going to have positive tests. That is part of the increased testing that we will be going through and that is something that we just want to make sure that our protocols are working and to date. We are seeing very positive reactions in the sense that we are making sure we respond quickly, protect the personnel that may be impacted by that and others that may be in contact with them."

Tufts Medical Center infectious disease specialist Dr. Shira Doron told the Washington Post that while it was technically possible to hold games, the logistical challenges to doing so throw up major hurdles. 

"If you've tested everybody, and they're negative, you isolate everybody—they're not allowed to see a soul, nobody comes in from outside to clean the bathrooms — test them again at the end of two weeks and they're all negative, you have a pretty good chance that if you don't let anyone in from the outside, you could keep them all negative for an indefinite period of time," said Doron. 

"I'm not suggesting that it's a reasonable thing to do," she added.

Critics were bemused by the president's insistence the league ignore a top administration health official but chalked it up to Trump's general incompetence in handling the virus, which is surging around the world and in numerous U.S. states, most notably Florida and Arizona. 

"Who are you going to trust," asked Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington research director Robert Maguire, "Anthony Fauci or the guy who stopped holding coronavirus briefings after people laughed at him for musing aloud about bleach injections?"

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