Hotez, the director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace that COVID-19 in the U.S. was “still spiraling out of control,” noting recent forecasts that 300,000 people could die from the disease by December.
The virus has now killed more than 160,000 people nationwide.
Hotez, who has long rejected and contested the anti-vaccine movement, noted how Russian intelligence officers have reportedly been part of a disinformation campaign to sow doubt about vaccines in development for the virus.
Anti-science campaigners were fueling further deaths with their stances against social distancing and the wearing of face masks to mitigate its spread, Hotez argued.
He warned the White House will step up its attacks on scientists, as it did with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has countered the government’s narrative on the crisis.
“So, put your tray-table up in the upright and locked position. It’s going to be a very tough fall, I’m afraid,” said Hotez.
The coronavirus could still be contained, Hotez claimed, but that would require “leadership at the federal level, and there was never an interest or curiosity for the federal government to lead this,” a reference to Trump’s passing of the buck to governors.
The White House’s failure to properly advocate for face masks, support contact tracing and introduce more lockdowns to quell outbreaks “is why we have the world’s worst COVID-19 epidemic and it’s still growing,” he said.
Trump for months downplayed the risk of the illness and later pushed for the premature reopening of schools and businesses, which many pundits claim was a ploy to get the economy back on track ahead of the 2020 election.
“Sometimes we talk about it as though it’s the past and the worst is over. The worst is yet to come,” Hotez concluded. “We’re going to double the number of deaths over the next few months and now we know it’s not just deaths. We’re seeing long-term injury to the lungs, to the vascular system, to the heart, neurologic deficits, cognitive deficits. This will plague the country for years and years, even after vaccines are out and we get people vaccinated.”