Fauci warns against reopening US too soon

The US’s top infectious diseases doctor warns US Senate of “serious consequences” if economy is reopened too soon.

Dr Anthony Fauci has said that if federal guidelines to reopen were not followed, “little spikes” would become outbreaks.

He also said the real US death toll is probably higher than the official tally of approximately 90,000.

His message is at odds with the tone of US President Donald Trump, who is keen to get the economy going again.

Fauci was one of several White House experts testifying to the US Senate from quarantine after a White House staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

President Donald Trump and White House staff are being tested daily.

“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,” Fauci said.

He also added that such an outbreak would set back economic recovery and lead to “suffering and death”.

He was referring to the White House’s “Opening Up America Again” plan, which includes three 14-day phases states are urged to consider implementing as they allow schools and businesses to reopen.

Several states currently restarting their economies have infection rates that are still rising.

Although the White House has laid out guidelines for reopening, it is ultimately up to state governors to make decisions on how to ease the lockdown.

Questioned about the possibility of a rebound of the virus in autumn, Dr Fauci said one is “entirely conceivable and possible”.

“I hope that if we do have the threat of a second wave, we will be able to deal with it very effectively to prevent it becoming an outbreak,” he said.

He also said there are multiple vaccines in development but “no guarantee” any will be effective, though based on his knowledge of other viruses, he is “cautiously optimistic”.

“As much as I respect you, Dr Fauci, I don’t think you’re the end-all. I don’t think you’re the one person that gets to make a decision,” Republican Senator Rand Paul said.

“We can listen to your advice, but there are people on the other side saying there’s not going to be a surge and that we can safely open the economy and the facts will bear this out … And I think we ought to look at the Swedish model and we ought to look at letting our kids get back to school. I think it’s a huge mistake if we don’t open the schools in the fall.”

Sweden is the only infected European country not to impose a strict lockdown.

Its death toll per capita is now higher than the US and far worse than its Scandinavian neighbours with more than 3,670 COVID-19 deaths in a population of 10 million.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence is keeping his distance from the president after his press secretary tested positive for the virus.

This report was produced and edited by Al Jazeera NewsFeed’s Hassan Ghani.