AP

Fauci warns of serious consequences if US reopens too soon

May 12, 2020, 9:56 AM
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases speaks rem...
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases speaks remotely during a virtual Senate Committee for Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing, Tuesday, May 12, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Win McNamee/Pool via AP)
(Win McNamee/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, warned on Tuesday that “the consequences could be really serious” if cities and states reopen the U.S. economy too quickly.

More COVID-19 infections are inevitable as people again start gathering, but how prepared communities are to stamp out those sparks will determine how bad the rebound is, Fauci told the Senate Health, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“There is no doubt, even under the best of circumstances, when you pull back on mitigation you will see some cases appear,” Fauci said.

And if there is a rush to reopen without following guidelines, “my concern is we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” he said. “The consequences could be really serious.”

Fauci was among the health experts testifying Tuesday to the Senate panel. His testimony comes as President Donald Trump is praising states that are reopening after the prolonged lockdown aimed at controlling the virus’s spread.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn, chairman of the committee, said as the hearing opened that “what our country has done so far in testing is impressive, but not nearly enough.”

 

Fauci, a member of the coronavirus task force charged with shaping the response to COVID-19, which has killed tens of thousands of people in the U.S., is testifying via video conference after self-quarantining as a White House staffer tested positive for the virus.

With the U.S. economy in free-fall and more than 30 million people unemployed, Trump has been pressuring states to reopen.

A recent Associated Press review determined that 17 states did not meet a key White House benchmark for loosening restrictions — a 14-day downward trajectory in new cases or positive test rates. Yet many of those have begun to reopen or are about to do so, including Alabama, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah.

Of the 33 states that have had a 14-day downward trajectory of either cases or positive test rates, 25 are partially opened or moving to reopen within days, the AP analysis found. Other states that have not seen a 14-day decline, remain closed despite meeting some benchmarks.

Fauci put himself in quarantine after a White House staffer tested positive for the virus. Alexander also put himself in quarantine after an aide tested positive.

Besides Fauci, of the National Institutes of Health, the other experts include FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn and Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — both in self-quarantine—and Adm. Brett Giroir, the coronavirus “testing czar” at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The event Tuesday got underway in the committee’s storied hearing room, but that’s about all that remained of the pre-pandemic way of conducting oversight. The senators running the event, Alexander and Democrat Patty Murray of Washington, were heads on video screens, with an array of personal items in the background as they isolated back home.

A few senators, such as Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski and Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, personally attended the session in the hearing room. They wore masks, as did an array of aides buzzing behind them.

The health committee hearing offers a very different setting from the White House coronavirus task force briefings the administration witnesses have all participated in. Most significantly, Trump will not be controlling the agenda.

Eyeing the November elections, Trump has been eager to restart the economy, urging on protesters who oppose their state governors’ stay-at-home orders and expressing his own confidence that the coronavrius will fade away as summer advances and Americans return to work and other pursuits.

The U.S. has seen at least 1.3 million infections and nearly 81,000 confirmed deaths from the virus, the highest toll in the world by far, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Separately, one expert from the World Health Organization has already warned that some countries are “driving blind” into reopening their economies without having strong systems to track new outbreaks. And three countries that do have robust tracing systems — South Korea, Germany and China — have already seen new outbreaks after lockdown rules were relaxed.

WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said Germany and South Korea have good contact tracing that hopefully can detect and stop virus clusters before they get out of control. But he said other nations — which he did not name — have not effectively employed investigators to contact people who test positive, track down their contacts and get them into quarantine before they can spread the virus.

“Shutting your eyes and trying to drive through this blind is about as silly an equation as I’ve seen,” Ryan said. “Certain countries are setting themselves up for some seriously blind driving over the next few months.”

Apple, Google, some U.S. states and European countries are developing contact-tracing apps that show whether someone has crossed paths with an infected person. But experts say the technology only supplements and does not replace labor-intensive human work.

U.S. contact tracing remains a patchwork of approaches and readiness levels. States are hiring contact tracers but experts say tens of thousands will be needed across the country.

Worldwide, the virus has infected nearly 4.2 million people and killed over 286,000, including more than 150,000 in Europe, according to the Johns Hopkins tally. Experts believe those numbers are too low for a variety of reasons.

___

Becatoros reported from Athens, Greece and Parra from Madrid. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

Damage from Hurricane Ian...
ADRIANA GOMEZ-LICON Associated Press

Ian returns to hurricane status, meanwhile floods trap many in Florida

Hours after weakening to a tropical depression while crossing the Florida peninsula, Ian regained hurricane strength Thursday evening after emerging over the Atlantic Ocean.
21 hours ago
An uprooted tree, toppled by strong winds from the outer bands of Hurricane Ian, rests in a parking...
CURT ANDERSON Associated Press

Ian makes landfall in southwest Florida as Category 4 storm

About 2.5 million people had been ordered to evacuate the area before the storm hit the coast on Wednesday with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph (241 kph).
2 days ago
The White House to ask for less money to fund border wall...
ACACIA CORONADO and GISELA SALOMON Associated Press

Increase in Venezuelan migration is felt across US

Last month, Venezuelans surpassed Guatemalans and Hondurans to become the second-largest nationality stopped at the U.S. border after Mexicans.
4 days ago
In Iran, protests have led to violent clashes between citizens and security forces. Protesters pict...
The Associated Press

At least 9 killed as Iran protests over woman’s death spread

The scope of Iran's ongoing unrest, the worst in several years, still remains unclear as protesters in more than a dozen cities.
7 days ago
U.S. Capitol pictured. The House just voted on an election law...
MARY CLARE JALONICK Associated Press

House passes election law overhaul in response to Jan. 6

The bill, which is similar to bipartisan legislation moving through the Senate, would overhaul an arcane 1800s-era statute known as the Electoral Count Act
8 days ago
Trump pictured. A lawsuit against Trump was just filed in new york...
Associated Press

NY attorney general sues Donald Trump and his company

Attorney General Letitia James' lawsuit is the culmination of the Democrat's three-year civil investigation of Trump and the Trump Organization.
9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Fauci warns of serious consequences if US reopens too soon