CNN's Acosta vs. Trump, Fauci on Starting Social Distancing Sooner: "Jim, We Acted Very, Very Early"

CNN's Jim Acosta asks President Trump about the projected 100,000 to 200,000 American deaths due to the coronavirus and whether there would be less if he acted sooner. When Trump answered and turned the microphone to Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, the former told Acosta no matter how the taskforce answered his question it always becomes "a soundbite that gets taken out of context." <blockquote>JIM ACOSTA, CNN: This may be an uncomfortable question but what would the models have looked like that Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci showed us if we had started the social distancing guidelines sooner in February or January when China, South Korea were doing those-- PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I'm going to--I'm going to let them answer that. Yeah-- QUESTION: In terms of what information we're getting from them but if had started this practices sooner could these models be different? TRUMP: I'm going to let them answer the question but remember this I say this and again I say it and everybody says it, you know who says it better than anybody is Dr. Fauci. I had a decision to make maybe it was my biggest decision. China was heavily infected and thousands and thousands of people were coming from China to the United States and against the wishes not even wishes but they disagreed with the decision I made a decision to stop China from coming in, took a lot of heat even from China. They weren't exactly happy. I just made a trade deal a big one $250 billion trade deal and I am shortly thereafter saying you can't come into our country. That was a big decision; that was earlier than the date you're talking about so that was a big decision. That was probably and by the way not because I did it that was probably the biggest decision we made so far but if you look at the one graph the problem New York has is New York started late but the other ones didn't start so late. Now New York is also more complicated because you know for obvious reasons but it got a late start but do you want to maybe answer these questions? DR. DEBORAH BIRX: I don't know if you can go back to slide two because I wanted to explain two things that I think is really important because we had a lot of questions about mortality and what it meant. Okay. So say this confidence interval? So here is the line, this is the confidence interval. This is where we have the ability to push it down. So you have a large confidence interval around the line and so we are trying to move that gray down tighter and below the dotted line so I think that is really important and then if you can go to the next slide. So we really can't answer your question until we can get antibody testing out there because what we can't tell you is and we can always do this there's always samples in hospitals and other things it is the way we really defined the HIV epidemic in the United States we were able to go back to blood samples when we had the tests and really find out where it was and what was going on. We really need to look in here and really see was there virus significantly circulating in early March and late February and what did it look like and where was it and was it all in the metro areas and I think that is what Dr. Fauci and I are very, very focused on is getting serology testing out there to really figure out when it came and really have those samples to be able to do that. QUESTION: But you understand the painful part of my question and please I don't mean to put you on the spot but--but-- BIRX: No, no. We understand that we can't answer (INAUDIBLE). QUESTION: --there may be Americans at home saying if we had started this sooner we might not have 100,000 to 200,000 Americans dying. BIRX: Well that makes an assumption that there was a lot back here that we didn't see and until we had the antibody test I can't really answer that. DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Just to underscore what Dr. Birx was saying, if there was no virus in the background there was nothing to mitigate. If there was virus there that we didn't know about than the answer to your question is probably yes. The only trouble with that is that whenever you come out and say something like that it always becomes almost a soundbite that gets taken out of context. But I think it's very important what Dr. Birx has said is that if there was covert infections here that we didn't know about and we didn't mitigate then that would have made a difference. If there was virtually nothing there then there's nothing to mitigate and--and I don't know the answer to your question. QUESTION: But we were watching South Korea excuse me and China and Italy and we weren't taking action when those countries were spiking. FAUCI: In a perfect world it would've been nice to know what was going on there. We didn't but I believe Jim that we acted very, very early in that. QUESTION: If we had adequate testing would we have known? TRUMP: We would have known the same thing. We inherited obsolete tests.</blockquote>