Anthony Fauci Warns States: Reopening Too Early Could ‘Trigger an Outbreak You May Not Be Able to Control’

J. Clara Chan

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top health official and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Tuesday warned states and cities that if they reopened too early, it could lead to “suffering and death that could be avoided” and “an outbreak that [they] may not be able to control.”

“My concern is that as states, or cities, or regions, in their attempt — understandable — to get back to some form of normality, disregard to a greater or lesser degree, the checkpoints that we put in our guidelines about when it is safe to proceed in pulling back on mitigation,” Fauci said during his testimony before the Senate Health Committee. “Because I feel, if that occurs, there is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control, which in fact, paradoxically, will set you back, not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery.”

He continued, “It would almost turn the clock back, rather than going forward. That is my major concern.”

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Last month, the White House released a three-phase guideline for states reopening their economies amid the pandemic. In Phase One, physical distancing and teleworking is still encouraged, while nonessential travel is discouraged. For states and regions that satisfy the plan’s “gating requirements, “large venues,” including “sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship” can operate under “strict physical distancing protocols.” In Phase Two, which can only begin after a community shows no evidence of rebound or surge in new cases, allows those “large venues” to operate under “moderate physical distancing protocols,” and schools and bars can operate with “diminished standing-room occupancy.” Phase Three allows for those “large venues” to operate with “limited physical distancing protocols.”

Already, numerous states — many of which have not yet met the White House’s guidelines — have begun reopening or plan to do so soon, despite the warnings from health officials like Fauci.

Later during the Senate hearing, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said he didn’t think Fauci was the “end-all,” argued that “people make wrong predictions” and said people should have “humility” over who knows what’s best for the economy. The senator also said he thought that despite the potential and significant risk, children should still go back to school in the fall based on mortality rates in Sweden, which has kept schools open.

“I have never made myself out to be the end-all and only voice in this,” Fauci said. “I’m a scientist, physician and a public health official. I give advice according to the best scientific evidence.”

Fauci continued, “The second thing is that you used the word ‘we should be humble’ about what we don’t know. I think that falls under the fact that we don’t know everything about this virus, and we really better be very careful — particularly when it comes to children.”

Fauci noted that our understanding of COVID-19 and just who is most vulnerable has shifted in the months since the pandemic began. “The more and more we learn, we’re seeing things about what this virus can do that we didn’t see from the studies in China or in Europe,” he said. “I think we better be careful if we are not cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects.”


Sen. Rand Paul: "I don't think you're the end all. I don't think you're the one person that gets to make a decision."

Dr. Anthony Fauci: "I have never made myself out to be the end all and only voice in this. I'm a scientist, a physician and a public health official." pic.twitter.com/Nqlg3zOqn3

— CSPAN (@cspan) May 12, 2020


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