WASHINGTON (AP) – Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, warned Tuesday that “the consequences could be really serious” if cities and states reopened the US economy too quickly with the coronavirus still in expansion.
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More COVID-19 infections are inevitable as people begin to meet again, but how prepared communities are to eliminate those sparks will determine how severe the rebound is, Fauci told the Senate Health, Labor and Pensions Committee.
“There is no doubt, even in the best of circumstances, when you remove mitigation you will see some cases appear,” Fauci said.
And if there is a rush to reopen without following the guidelines, “my concern is that we will start to see small spikes that could become outbreaks,” he said. “The consequences could be really serious.”
In fact, he said opening too early “could slow the clock,” and that it would not only cause “a little bit of suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even slow you down the road to try to regain the economy.”
Fauci was among the health experts who testified before the Senate panel Tuesday. His testimony comes as President Donald Trump praises states that are reopening after the prolonged blockade aimed at controlling the spread of the virus.
Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn, chairman of the committee, said at the opening of the hearing that “what our country has done so far in the tests is impressive, but not enough.”
Worldwide, the virus has infected nearly 4.2 million people and killed more than 287,000, more than 80,000 in the US alone. USA When asked if the US mortality count USA It was correct, Fauci said: “The number is probably higher. I don’t know exactly what percentage is higher, but it is almost certainly higher.”
Fauci, a member of the coronavirus task force tasked with shaping the response to COVID-19, testified by videoconference after the quarantine while a White House staff member tested positive for the virus.
With the United States economy in freefall and more than 30 million people unemployed, Trump has been pressing states to reopen.
A recent Associated Press review found that 17 states failed to meet a key White House benchmark to loosen the restrictions: a 14-day downward trajectory in new cases or positive evidence rates. However, many of them have started or are about to reopen, 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 cases or positive test rates, 25 are partially open or are 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.
In addition to Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, the other experts include FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn and Dr. Robert Redfield, chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, both in self-quarantine. , and Admiral Brett Giroir, the coronavirus. “Test Czar” at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Tuesday’s event started in the committee’s courtroom, but that’s all that was left of the pre-pandemic way of conducting oversight. The senators who led the event, Alexander and Washington Democrat Patty Murray, were bosses on video screens, with a series of personal items in the background as they isolated themselves at home.
Some senators, such as Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski and Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, personally attended the session in the courtroom. They wore masks, as did a series of assistants buzzing behind them.
The health committee hearing offers a very different environment from the White House coronavirus task force briefings in which all administration witnesses have participated. More significantly, Trump will not control the agenda.
Watching the November election, Trump has been eager to restart the economy, urging protesters who oppose orders to stay at the homes of his state governors and expressing his own confidence that the coronavrius will fade as the summer and Americans return to work and other persecutions
The United States has seen at least 1.3 million infections and nearly 81,000 deaths confirmed by the virus, the highest number in the world by far, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University.
Separately, an expert from the World Health Organization has already warned that some countries are “going blind” to reopen their economies without having strong systems to track new outbreaks. And three countries that have robust tracking systems, South Korea, Germany and China, have already seen new outbreaks after the blocking rules were relaxed.
WHO chief emergency officer Dr. Michael Ryan said Germany and South Korea have good follow-up on contacts that can hopefully detect and stop clusters of viruses before they get out of control. But he said other nations, which he did not mention, have not effectively employed investigators to contact people who test positive, track their contacts and quarantine them before they can transmit the virus.
“Closing your eyes and trying to get through this blind is as silly an equation as I’ve seen,” Ryan said. “Certain countries are preparing for very blind driving in the coming months.”
Apple, Google, some US states. USA And European countries are developing contact tracking applications that show if someone has come across an infected person. But experts say the technology only complements and does not replace labor-intensive human labor.
Tracking US contacts USA It remains a mosaic of approaches and levels of preparedness. States are hiring contact trackers, but experts say it will take tens of thousands across the country.
Worldwide, the virus has infected nearly 4.2 million people and killed more than 286,000, including more than 150,000 in Europe, according to the Johns Hopkins count. Experts believe those numbers are too low for a variety of reasons.
Becatoros reported from Athens, Greece and Parra from Madrid. Associated Press journalists from around the world contributed.