The United States’ top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, has warned if the country reopens too soon during the coronavirus pandemic, it will result in “needless suffering and death”.
Dr Fauci, who has become the trusted face of the US government’s virus response, will testify remotely at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday (US time), which will assess the country’s reopening plans.
Other top medical experts from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Health and Human Services will also testify.
“The major message that I wish to convey to the Senate HLP committee tomorrow is the danger of trying to open the country prematurely,” Dr Fauci wrote in an email to The New York Times late on Monday.
“If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to: ‘Open America Again,’ then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country.
“This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal,” he said.
OPENING UP AMERICA
“Opening Up America Again” is the Trump administration’s guidelines on a three-phase approach to help state and local officials reopen their economies, while observing medical advice on limiting the spread of the virus.
Among the administration’s requirements before moving to a phased comeback, states should have a “downward trajectory” of documented cases or positive tests, as a percentage of total tests, over two weeks.
There should be a robust testing program for at-risk healthcare workers, with asymptomatic cases screened as well, and contacts of positive cases traced.
According to the AP news agency, 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.
Other states that have not seen a 14-day decline, remain closed despite meeting some benchmarks.
TRUMP PUSHING TO RESTORE ECONOMY
The US has reported more than 80,000 deaths and 1.3 million infections since the pandemic began.
But President Donald Trump is keen to reopen the US economy, which has been hammered by the fallout from mass lockdowns and social distancing.
He has praised states for reopening and encouraged protesters who oppose stay-at-home orders, saying the coronavirus could fade away as summer advances.
Meanwhile, the White House itself is battling infections within its own ranks.
Dr Fauci is currently in “modified quarantine” after Vice-President Mike Pence’s spokeswoman – who he had no close contact with – tested positive for the virus.
– With wires