Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told lawmakers Tuesday he was concerned that states were reopening too quickly, leading to more outbreaks of COVID-19.
Testifying before a Senate panel on the government’s coronavirus response, Fauci said states reopening retail stores and easing social distancing guidelines weren’t following the recommendations of public health officials.
“What we have worked out is a guideline framework of how we safely open America again and there are several checkpoints in that,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases.
“My concern is that some areas, cities, states, what have you, jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently.”
“My concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” he said.
“The consequences could be really serious,” he added. “There is no doubt that even under best of circumstances, when you pull back on mitigation, you will see some cases appear.”
More than 30 US states have begun easing social distancing restrictions and allowing businesses to reopen at a reduced capacity as President Trump pushes for America to return to work.
States such as Georgia that were the first to reopen have unsuccessfully flattened the rate of new coronavirus cases.
The virus has so far killed 80,000 people in the US and infected 1.38 million.
In one tense exchange, GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky accused Fauci of acting like “the end-all” and said he feared children from underprivileged backgrounds could be kept out of school for an entire year under Fauci’s recommendations.
“I think we all have a little bit of humility in our belief that we know what’s best for the economy, and as much as I respect you, Dr. Fauci, I don’t think you’re the end-all,” Rand said.
“I don’t think you’re the one person that gets to make a decision. We can listen to your advice, but there are people on the other side who are saying there’s not going to be a surge, that we can safely open the economy,” he continued.
In response, Fauci suggested Paul — who has himself recovered after contracting COVID-19 — was being “cavalier” in thinking children were immune after it emerged this week that several had died from a coronavirus-related disease.
“I have never made myself out to be the end-all and only a voice in this. I’m a scientist, a physician and a public health official, I give advice, according to the best scientific evidence,” Fauci said.
“I don’t give advice about economic things. I don’t give advice about anything other than public health,” he continued.
“I think we’ve got to be careful if we are not cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects,” he said.