Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that the United States is primed to experience "a whole lot of hurt" as winter approaches due to the potential for surging COVID-19 cases and deaths, comments that drew a rebuke from the White House on Sunday.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House's coronavirus taskforce, said President Donald Trump is looking at the pandemic from a perspective focused on "the economy and reopening the country" while Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden "is taking it seriously from a public health perspective."
White House spokesman Judd Deere responded to Fauci's comments in a statement accusing him of "playing politics" days before Tuesday's presidential election.
"As a member of the task force, Dr. Fauci has a duty to express concerns or push for a change in strategy, but he's not done that, instead choosing to criticize the president in the media and make his political leanings known by praising the president's opponent -- exactly what the American people have come to expect from The Swamp."
Fauci told The Washington Post that the White House's pandemic response has left the nation in a perilous position as cold weather forces more people indoors.
"We're in for a whole lot of hurt. It's not a good situation," Fauci said in the interview published Saturday. "All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly."
The warning came as the United States reported 81,227 new cases and 862 new deaths bringing its world-leading totals to 9,130,482 infections and 230,856 fatalities, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. The cases record was 99,321 Friday.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump while out on the campaign trail has repeatedly said that the country is "rounding the turn" on the virus and mocked Fauci including reportedly calling him a "disaster" on a phone call with campaign staff.
Fauci, who was a fixture at daily briefings at the White House alongside coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, said they both no longer have regular access to Trump and that while he phones into meetings of other staffers, he avoids the West Wing due to " all the infections there."
"The last time I spoke to the president was not about any policy; it was when he was recovering in Walter Reed, he called me up," Fauci said, referencing early in October when the president was being treated for COVID-19.
He also expressed concern about Trump favoring the advice of Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who has previously cast doubt on the effectiveness of masks for preventing the spread of the virus.
"I have real problems with that guy," Fauci said. "He's a smart guy who's talking about things that I believe he doesn't have any real insight or knowledge or experience in. He keeps talking about things that when you dissect it out and parse it out, it doesn't make any sense."
Atlas on Sunday apologized for taping an interview with RT, a Russian-state controlled broadcaster that is registered with the U.S. Justice Department as an agent of the Russian government.
"I recently did an interview with RT and was unaware they are a registered foreign agent. I regret doing the interview and apologize for allowing myself to be taken advantage of," Atlas wrote on Twitter. "I especially apologize to the national security community who is working hard to defend us."
During the interview Atlas again undermined the effectiveness of masks, spoke out against lockdowns, discouraged testing of asymptomatic people and dismissed the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington's forecast that more than 399,000 Americans will die of COVID-19 by Feb. 1.
"The IHME model is really sort -- it's absurd to start looking at this model at this point," he said. "At this point in time, anybody who's even focusing on models has not learned from the past."
A White House official told CNN Sunday that Atlas did not have clearance from the Trump administration to conduct the interview.