Social restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus could have saved lives if they’d been started earlier, and when they’re eased new cases are certain to arise, said the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, seeming to draw the ire of President Donald Trump, The Associated Press reported.
Trump, who has been fuming at criticism that he didn’t do enough early on to fight the virus, retweeted a tweet that referenced Fauci’s comments and that said “Time to #FireFauci.”
The Republican president again pointed to his decision in late January to restrict travel from China, writing, “Sorry Fake News, it’s all on tape. I banned China long before people spoke up.”
Fauci said Sunday that the economy in parts of the country could have a “rolling reentry” as early as next month, provided health authorities can quickly identify and isolate people who will inevitably be infected. Fauci also said he “can’t guarantee” that it will be safe for Americans to vote in person on Election Day, Nov. 3.
When asked on CNN if earlier action on social distancing and “stay at home” policies could have saved lives, Fauci responded in part: “It’s very difficult to go back and say that. I mean, obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that. But what goes into those kinds of decisions is complicated.”
Trump’s tweet referencing Fauci was one of several that Trump posted on Sunday that defended his handling of the virus outbreak and blamed others for missteps, AP adds.
Rather than flipping a switch to reopen the entire country, Fauci said a gradual process will be required based on the status of the pandemic in various parts of the U.S. and the availability of rapid, widespread testing. Once the number of people who are seriously ill sharply declines, officials can begin to “think about a gradual reentry of some sort of normality, some rolling reentry,” Fauci said.
In some places, he said, that might occur as soon as May. “We are hoping that, at the end of the month, we could look around and say, OK, is there any element here that we can safely and cautiously start pulling back on? If so, do it. If not, then just continue to hunker down,” Fauci said.