Top U.S. health officials said they are still working closely with the World Health Organization even after President Donald Trump said last week he planned to terminate the U.S. relationship with the group for being too deferential to China.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield both suggested they are maintaining ties with the WHO Thursday. Trump administration officials have been struggling during the coronavirus pandemic to separate politics from public health, having to tread lightly when the president takes actions they don’t agree with.
“The WHO continues to be a close colleague or ours,” Redfield told House lawmakers at a hearing. “We continue to have a close collaboration with the WHO.”
Fauci told Politico in a story published Thursday that the WHO is an important part of the response to any outbreak.
“So from my standpoint, I have in the past and will continue to have a close relationship with the WHO,” Fauci said.
Trump’s decision to cut ties with the WHO has been criticized by Republicans and Democrats, as well as major medical organizations. He has previously pledged to freeze funding to the global health group, which helps coordinate public health efforts around the globe but has faced increasing scrutiny from the White House over its relationship to China during the pandemic.
The U.S. has historically been the WHO’s largest contributor, providing $400 million to $500 million in mandatory and voluntary contributions.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.