Warning over reopening too early
Fauci warning counters calls by White House
Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, Tuesday warned that states could trigger more “suffering and death” if they reopen sooner than advised by the nationwide coronavirus guidance.
Speaking before a Senate committee, Fauci said moving too quickly to loosen restrictions could have “really serious consequences.”
“There is no doubt, even under the best of circumstances, when you pull back on mitigation you will see some cases appear,” he said.
Fauci expressed concern that “little spikes” in cases could then “turn into outbreaks,” undercutting efforts to tackle the pandemic and potentially hurting the economic recovery.
The warning, both in its tone and emphasis, contrasted with Donald Trump’s repeated calls for states to reopen as soon as possible — though the president has also said he only wants that done safely.
Elsewhere, Fauci said the real United States death toll from coronavirus is “almost certainly higher” than the official figure of 80,000, as some who died at home in New York were not counted.
He said it was “entirely conceivable and possible” a second wave of cases will emerge this autumn, but he stressed that with more testing, contact tracing and protective equipment it would, hopefully, be no worse than the first.
He also played down talk of tension between himself and Trump, saying “there is certainly not a confrontational relationship between me and the president.”
Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a role he has held since 1984. He is also a member of the White House coronavirus task force.
His public profile has soared during the pandemic, being seen as a voice of reason by many Americans as he delivers scientific advice in a thick New York accent.
Fauci’s remarks came at a hearing before the Senate health education, labour and pensions committee, to which he called in remotely. He is minimizing his contacts after a White House press adviser contracted the coronavirus.
Much recent debate in the U.S. has focused on the speed with which governors — who make decisions on when to reopen their states — are loosening restrictions.
The Trump administration guidance, issued last month, says states should only do so after COVID-19 cases are on a downward trajectory for at least 14 days, but many governors are moving faster than that.
Fauci repeatedly stressed the importance of following the guidelines, warning that failure to do so could create a new uptick in cases in those areas. “I feel if that occurs there is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control,” Fauci said.