Dr Anthony Fauci warned on Tuesday that reopening cities and states too quickly could unleash an out of control epidemic and reverse efforts to fight the coronavirus.
“You will trigger an epidemic that you may not be able to control,” he warned in his testimony before the Senate, adding “which in fact will make you back off, causing not only suffering and death that could be avoided, but might even have made you go backwards and almost made the clock go backwards rather than moving forward. This is my main concern. “
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also conceded that the death rate is likely to be higher than the 80,000 reported.
But with his warning came words of hope when he said that scientists find out if an effective coronavirus vaccine was found in late fall and early winter.
In testimony to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Work and Pensions, Fauci said scientists are already testing possible vaccines in a phase one clinical trial to move to phase two this summer .
“If we are successful, we hope to find out in late fall and early winter,” he said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said scientists are hoping to find out if an effective coronavirus vaccine was found in late fall and early winter.
Senators sat at least six feet from each other during the hearing, many of whom participated by teleconference
Senator Lamar Alexander presided over the hearing from his home in Tennessee after one of his staff tested positive for the coronavirus
He also said that several vaccines were being tested.
“There are at least eight COVID-19 candidate vaccines in clinical development. The NIH has collaborated with a number of pharmaceutical companies at different stages of development, ”noted Fauci.
He warned that the tests could have negative consequences, including the death of patients.
“I must warn that there is also the possibility of negative consequences when certain vaccines can actually reinforce the negative effect of the infection,” he said.
He also warned that states would begin to reopen – thereby reducing home stay orders and social distancing – “you will see some cases reappear”.
“There is no doubt, even in the best of cases, when you step back on mitigation, you will see some cases appear,” warned Fauci, adding that the United States must be prepared.when the inevitable return of infections occurs.
“We will start to see small spikes that could turn into epidemics,” he noted.
Fauci’s testimony came as the United States has more than 1.38 million cases of coronavirus and more than 81,000 deaths.
The doctor, an infectious disease expert, warned that the death rate was probably higher than that.
“I think you are right, the number is probably higher,” he said in response to a question from Senator Bernie Sanders. “I don’t know exactly the highest percentage, but almost certainly the highest. ”
He noted that, for example, people who died at home at the start of the epidemic in places like New York were not counted as victims of coronavirus.
Admiral Brett Giroir, who is in charge of the tests, said that the United States would carry out 40 to 50 million tests of coronavirus by September.
Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) greet each other with an elbow before the Senate hearing
Several senators and witnesses participated in the hearing by teleconference
Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary to the Department of Health and Human Services, said that, as the states went through reopening and the flu season started, more tests would be needed.
The Trump administration has proposed guidelines for the reopening of the three state phases, which would allow for a gradual return to reopening restaurants, returning to work and reopening schools.
Many states have started to reopen their economies without reaching the threshold of the White House.
Giroir oversees testing for the virus and said by September, “We expect our nation to be able to perform 40 to 50 million tests a month.”
“As we open up gradually, as communities go through phase one, then phase two, and certainly those numbers will have to increase significantly in the fall. When we potentially have the flu in circulation with COVID, “he said.
Fauci, Giroir and other members of the coronavirus task force testified remotely after choosing to self-quarantine after being in contact with Karen Miller, press secretary to Vice President Mike Pence who tested positive for coroanvirus last week. Miller is the spokesperson for the Coronavirus Task Force and has participated in several meetings of the latter.
Fauci said before the start of the hearing that he would warn senators of the threat that accompanies the reopening of the country too quickly. President Donald Trump urged America to resume operations as the economy collapsed and more than 30 million people were unemployed.
In an email to the New York Times, Fauci said his main intention was to spread “the danger of trying to open the country prematurely.”
He added, “If we skip the checkpoints in the guidelines to” Open America again, “then we risk the danger of multiple epidemics across the country. This will not only cause unnecessary suffering and death, but it will actually set us back in our quest to return to normal.
Fauci has been largely out of public view last week since the president paused briefings from the coronavirus task force.
Experts have said that rather than a second wave hitting in the fall, America could be seized by a series of wavelets – acute outbreaks of the virus in communities across the country that will be impossible to predict.
Trump’s efforts to project a confident front in defining his “Open America Again” strategy have been hampered by the virus hitting the west wing.
Two White House staff members tested positive, a spokesperson for Miller the Pence and a U.S. Navy officer being one of Trump’s valets.