Operations at the White House have already shifted one day into Joe Biden's presidency, including placing a renewed emphasis on science.
Dr. Anthony Fauci resumed his place at White House briefings on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on Thursday and said that he has already noted stark differences between Donald Trump's administration, which downplayed the severity of the deadly virus, and Biden's.
While answering reporters' questions during the briefing, Fauci said that working under Biden's administration is "liberating."
"One of the new things in this administration is, if you don't know the answer, don't guess. Just say you don't know the answer," he said, adding later that an importance will be placed on making "everything we do be based on science and evidence."
"One of the things that we're going to do is to be completely transparent, open and honest. If things go wrong, not point fingers, but to correct them," he continued.
"I mean, that was literally a conversation I had 15 minutes ago with the president," Fauci said, adding that being honest about the pandemic is what put him in hot water with Trump.
"That's why I got in trouble sometimes," he said of his unwillingness to make claims that weren't based in scientific fact.
"When you said I was joking about it, I was very serious about it, I wasn't joking," Fauci said with a laugh in response to one reporter who said he'd "joked" about the differences between the two administrations.
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"I mean obviously, I don't wanna be going back over history, but it was very clear that things that were said — be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things like that — that really was uncomfortable because they were not based on scientific fact," he said. "I can tell you, I take no pleasure at all being in a situation of contradicting the president, so it was really something that you didn't feel that you could actually say something and there wouldn't be any repercussions about it."
"The idea that you can get up here, and talk about what you know, what the evidence, what the science is, and know that's it, let the science speak, it is somewhat of a liberating feeling."
Elsewhere in the briefing, Fauci spoke about the new "mutant" strains of the virus that have appeared in the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa.
As has been noted before, Fauci said that the new strain first identified in the U.K. doesn't appear to be any more virulent, but is more transmissible.
"We shouldn't be lulled into complacency about that, because if you have a virus that is more transmissible, you're going to get more cases; when you get more cases, you're going to get more hospitalizations, and when you get more hospitalizations, you're ultimately going to get more deaths."
Fauci said that the strain identified in South Africa is "a little bit more concerning, but not something that we don't think that we can handle."
"It is all the more reason why we should be vaccinating as many people as you possibly can, because as long as the virus is out there replicating, viruses don't mutate unless they replicate," the infectious disease expert explained. "And if you can suppress that by a very good vaccine campaign, then you can actually avoid this deleterious effect that you might get from the mutations."
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"Bottom line: we're paying very close attention to it, there are alternative plans if we ever have to modify the vaccine," he added. "That is not something that is a very onerous thing, we can do that, given the platforms we have, but right now, from the reports we have, literally as of today, it appears that the vaccines will still be effective against them — with the caveat in mind, you want to pay close attention to it."
He also said that Biden's goal of getting 100 million Americans vaccinated within his first 100 days in office is a "reasonable" one.
As of Thursday, there have been more than 24.5 million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., and more than 400,000 people have died from the contagious virus.
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