Dr. Fauci to testify reopening too early risks ‘needless suffering and death’ from coronavirus: Report

By | May 12, 2020

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies during the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Coronavirus Preparedness and Response, in Rayburn Building on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist and a key member of President Donald Trump’s White House coronavirus task force, reportedly plans to publicly warn states Tuesday that prematurely reopening their economies will cause “needless suffering and death.”

On Monday night, The New York Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported that Fauci had sent her an email ahead of his public testimony the following day at a hearing of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. 

“The major message that I wish to convey to the Senate HLP committee tomorrow is the danger of trying to open the country prematurely,” Fauci wrote in the email, which Stolberg posted on Twitter.

“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,” wrote Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The email appears to put Fauci at odds with President Donald Trump, who has encouraged states to reopen as soon as it was possible to safely do so. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to an email late Monday night about Fauci’s remarks.

The position of the White House is that it should be left to individual governors whether to follow the guidelines set out by the Centers for Disease Control, which describe criteria that states should reach before they begin a phased reopening.

These include a downward trajectory in the number of “positive tests” or “documented cases” of coronavirus for at least two consecutive weeks. Other recommendations include being able to provide “robust contact tracing” for people who test positive, and “surveillance testing” for high-risk groups.

But many states are reopening despite not having met these criteria, a move that experts like Fauci say puts American lives at risk for only negligible gain.

Texas and Colorado, for example, have yet to see two weeks straight of steadily decreasing cases, but they are nonetheless moving ahead with plans to restart their economies and reopen businesses.

Last week, Trump praised Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to reopen the state when the two men met at the White House.

“Texas is opening up and a lot of places are opening up. And we want to do it, and I’m not sure that we even have a choice. I think we have to do it. You know, this country can’t stay closed and locked down for years,” Trump told reporters.

The other three witnesses will be CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield, assistant secretary for health at HHS Adm. Brett Giroir, MD, and Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Follow CNBC’s coronavirus live blog for updates from the hearing. 

As of Monday, more than 1.3 million Americans have tested positive for coronavirus, and more than 80,000 Americans have died from it, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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