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CDC Director Might Be Regretting That Interview

Robert Redfield is walking back his comments on second wave of coronavirus
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2020 1:06 AM CDT

(Newser) – On Tuesday, the Washington Post published an interview with Dr. Robert Redfield in which the CDC director seemed to indicate an inevitable second wave of coronavirus infections was likely to be worse than this initial wave. By Wednesday, Redfield was walking back those remarks. President Trump tweeted Wednesday that Redfield had been "totally misquoted" and repeated that line at the start of the day's White House press briefing, NBC News reports.

  • Trump's line: "Totally misquoted. I spoke to him. He said it was ridiculous," Trump said at the briefing. "He was talking about the flu and corona coming together at the same time. And corona could be just some little flare-ups that we'll take care of. We're going to knock it out, we'll knock it out fast, but that's what he was referring to, coming together at the same time."

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  • Redfield's explanation: Trump then called the CDC director to the podium. "I didn't say that this was going to be worse. I said it was going to be more difficult and potentially complicated because we'll have flu and coronavirus circulating at the same time," Redfield said. "The key to my comments and the reason that I really wanted to stress them was to appeal to the American public to embrace the flu vaccine with confidence."
  • Redfield's follow-up: Asked by a reporter whether the quote was accurate as reported in the Post, Redfield acknowledged it was, but said, "Yeah, that's what I was trying to say to you just a minute ago. That the issue that I was talking about, about being more difficult, is that we're going to have two viruses circulating at the same time." He continued, "Next fall and winter, we are going to have two viruses circulating, and we're going to have to distinguish between which is flu and which is the coronavirus. And so the comment that I made, it's more difficult. It doesn't mean it's going to be impossible. It doesn't mean it's going to be more, as some people have said, worse. It just means it's ... more difficult because we have to distinguish between the two."
  • Trump's addendum: "We may not even have corona coming back, just so you understand," Trump said, claiming neither he nor Redfield could be sure COVID-19 would return in the fall and that Redfield was simply trying to urge the public to get their flu shots. But Dr. Anthony Fauci also spoke at the briefing and noted that he's "convinced" coronavirus will be back in the fall. Just how difficult a battle that is depends on the country's ability to contain the outbreaks that do occur, he said. He believes the US "will be much, much better prepared to do that kind of containment compared to where we were this winter," he said. "I believe that was what Dr. Redfield was saying. That it's going to be complicated."
  • Headline issues: Trump added that Redfield's Post quote itself "wasn't that bad," but that he took issue with the Post's headline and the way CNN then covered the story. Redfield concurred, the Hill reports, saying the Post shouldn't have taken his "more difficult" quote and turned it into a headline claiming that he said a second wave was "likely to be even more devastating."
  • Post's response: The Post published a piece Wednesday with the headline, "Under Trump, coronavirus scientists can speak—as long as they mostly toe the line."
(See the original interview as well as CNN's coverage of it here.)

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