Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Wednesday that he was convinced the coronavirus would be around in the United States until at least the fall but that the scope of those cases depended on the American people abiding by social distancing measures and lawmakers listening to public health advice before reopening segments of the country.
“We will have coronavirus in the fall,” Fauci said during the daily White House briefing on the spread of the virus. “I am convinced of that because of the degree of transmissibility that it has, the global nature. What happens with that will depend on how we’re able to contain it when it occurs.”
He added: “I plead with the American public … although I know one has the need to leapfrog over things, don’t do that. This is a successful formula. The problem is if we don’t do that there is a likelihood that we will have a rebound. The one way to not reopen the economy is to have a rebound that we cannot take care of.”
The doctor’s comments come amid President Donald Trump’s insistence that parts of the U.S. return to business as usual as early as possible. The White House released a three-phase plan last week for governors to use as a road map to restart parts of their economies. The plan is aimed at lowering restrictions in regions that have few cases of COVID-19.
One state leader, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), said this week he would reopen portions of the state’s businesses starting Friday, including gyms, barbershops and bowling alleys. The move prompted sharp rebukes from public health officials and mayors in the state who warned the spread of the virus was far from under control.
However, Trump said Wednesday that he disagreed “very strongly” with Kemp’s decision (the president did not say he would move to stop him, noting the governor “must do what he thinks is right”).
“I love those people that use all of those things, the spas, the beauty parlors, barbershops, tattoo parlors, I love them,” Trump said at the briefing. “But they can wait a little bit longer. Just a little bit, not much, because safety has to predominate.”
The president insisted several times that the coronavirus “may not come back at all” but noted that, even if it did, it would not be as severe as the past few months.
“If it does come back, it’s not going to come back, it’s not going to be like it was,” Trump said. “We have much better containment now. If we have little pockets here, it goes out, and it goes out fast. It’s also possible it doesn’t come back at all.”
Fauci suggested Wednesday that he disagreed with Kemp’s decision, saying if he were advising the governor, “I would tell him that he should be careful.”
“I would advise him not to just turn the switch on and go because there is a danger of a rebound,” Fauci said. “There is a desire to go quickly … but going ahead and leapfrogging into phases where you should not be, I would advise him not to do that.”
Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday that the public health response to the coronavirus later this year could be more “difficult and potentially complicated” as it would then be circulating at the same time as the flu. He stepped back from comments made Tuesday that were interpreted as predicting that the coronavirus crisis would be worse this winter.
“It doesn’t mean it’s going to be more impossible, doesn’t mean it’s going to be worse, it means it’s going to be more difficult because we’re going to have to distinguish between the two [viruses],” Redfield said, when people are ill and require treatment.
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