On Feb. 3, Fauci predicted that because of the travel restrictions Trump had put in place, “I think you are going to see a dampening down” of U.S. cases. On Feb. 17, Fauci told USA Today that the danger to Americans was “just minuscule” and that people should be more worried about the “real and present danger” of seasonal flu. He further warned against “outlandish extrapolations of fear” and advised that “now, in the United States, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to wear a mask.”

On Feb. 28, Fauci finally acknowledged, “It could be really, really bad,” but added, “I don’t think it’s gonna be, because I think we’d be able to do the kind of mitigation. It could be mild.”On Feb. 29 he said, “Right now, at this moment, there is no need to change anything that you’re doing on a day-by-day basis. Right now the risk is still low, but this could change. … I mean, this could be a major outbreak. I hope not. Or it could be something that’s reasonably well controlled. At the end of the day, this will ultimately go down.”On March 9 he said, “If you are a healthy young person, there is no reason if you want to go on a cruise ship, go on a cruise ship. But … an elderly person who has an underlying condition, I would recommend strongly that they do not go on a cruise ship.”

As late as March 10, Fauci was still adamant that “as a nation, the risk is relatively low” but admitted that “there are parts of the country right now that are having community spread in which the risk there is clearly a bit more than that.”