Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said a “divisive” culture in the United States has been a hindrance in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fauci made the remarks Monday night during an interview with Trevor Noah on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.

“I try my best…in giving a consistent message as often as I can get the message out, something that’s just based on the scientific data, based on evidence, which is something that’s really very important,” he said.

“One of the things that I think gets in the way is that we are in such a divisive state in society that it tends to get politicized. It’s almost one side versus the other.”

“What has evolved now is that almost people take sides, like wearing a mask is or not is a political statement,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “And that’s really very unfortunate.

“Unfortunate because this is a purely public health issue. It should not be one against the other.”

Adding to the confusion, he said, are conflicting messages coming from multiple federal sources — like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention retracting guidance on Monday and President Donald Trump contradicting CDC Director Robert Redfield last week about the timeline for a vaccine.

“When I’m telling you wear a mask, keep social distancing, avoid crowds, wash your hands, do things outdoors more than indoors, there’s nothing political about that. That’s a public health message that we know works,” he said.

“We have within our capability the ability to turn this around.”

Fauci’s remarks came as the United States added 52,000 cases, the highest one-day total since the middle of August, according to data from Johns Hopkins University on Tuesday.

The university reported 356 deaths. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 6.86 million cases and 199,900 deaths in the United States.

In California, the number of residents testing positive fell below 3% for the first time, state health officials said.

The positivity rate for the past week was 2.8%, according to the California Department of Health Care Services — the lowest figure since the beginning of the pandemic.

The state also reached a grim milestone, as its overall death toll surpassed 15,000 Monday.

In San Diego County, residents and local officials will find out Tuesday if they have fallen a rung into the most restrictive tier in California’s COVID-19 ranking system following at outbreak at San Diego State University.

A surge of positive cases last week contributed to overall totals high enough for San Diego to fall into the “purple” tier of the state’s reopening system, meaning that restaurants, churches and gyms would have to close their indoor spaces.

County health officials reported about 300 new cases but no deaths Monday.

In Wisconsin, which has one of the nation’s fastest-growing outbreaks, nearly 1,300 people tested positive Monday, state officials said — the seventh straight day with at least 1,000 added cases.

Wisconsin’s new caseload has soared by 88% over the last two weeks, the highest rate in the nation. Its positivity rate, nearly 19%, has been driven by cases in the University of Wisconsin system.

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