Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday he “can’t guarantee” in-person voting for the presidential election in November will be safe amid the coronavirus pandemic. This appears to be a contradiction of President Trump, who has so far insisted the election will proceed as planned and rejected alternatives like voting by mail.
“Do you think it will be safe in November for voters to physically go to vote at the polls?” CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Fauci in an interview.
“I hope so,” replied Fauci, who is the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “I can’t guarantee it.”
Fauci said that if there was “a good, measured way” of rolling back into normality, he would “hope” by November that the U.S. could hold its election in “the standard way.”
“However,” he added, “and I don’t want to be the pessimistic person — there is always the possibility, as we get into next fall and the beginning of early winter, that we could see a rebound.”
He suggested, though, that even if there is another wave of coronavirus in the fall, there could be enough advancements in testing, treatment and surveillance that it could be “an entirely different ballgame.”
Fauci has often warned about a next phase of the pandemic that could come later in the year, even if there is a drop in cases over the summer.
Election officials across the country, from both parties, are already warning that there must be more resources to ensure safe in-person voting — and more discussion about potential alternatives. Officials also worry that there will be partisan battles about what voting will look like during the pandemic.
One example played out this month in Wisconsin, where a conservative-led legislature and state Supreme Court overrode the Democratic governor’s attempt to suspend in-person primary voting. Wisconsin voters had to appear in person to cast their ballots, despite the health risks.
Fauci’s hesitance about plans for the presidential election is a contrast to Mr. Trump, who so far has shown no support for a Plan B in November. The president has repeatedly suggested without evidence that voting by mail would lead to widespread fraud, and that he wants voters going to polls in person with identification — although he himself voted by mail in the 2018 midterm elections and last month’s Florida primary. (Mr. Trump, however, also made false claims about in-person voter fraud after he won the 2016 election.)
Mr. Trump and Dr. Fauci have sometimes been at odds in their public comments about the pandemic, and Fauci said in the same CNN interview that an earlier response to the virus would have saved lives. The same day, Mr. Trump retweeted a message that included the hashtag #FireFauci.
But the White House said in a statement Monday that Mr. Trump is not going to fire Fauci, who “has been and remains a trusted advisor” to the president.