Despite US President Donald Trump’s intentions, reopening the country’s economy and getting back to normal might have to wait a bit longer.
Trump had mentioned the possibility of reopening some areas of the economy by May 1st as part of the idea that 30 days’ isolation being enough to stop the spread of the virus. This has now been dismissed by the country’s top infectious disease expert.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with Associated Press that the US does not yet have the testing and contact tracing capacity required to safely reopen its economy.
“We have to have something in place that is efficient and that we can rely on, and we’re not there yet,” Fauci said, claiming the May 1st target is “a bit overly optimistic” for much of the country until there’s rapid testing capacity becomes available.
Government projections show that lifting social distancing restrictions after just 30 days will lead to a dramatic infection spike this summer and death tolls that would rival having done nothing since the outbreak began, the New York Times recently reported.
“I’ll guarantee you, once you start pulling back there will be infections. It’s how you deal with the infections that’s going count,” Fauci said, adding that easing existing social distancing rules in much of the U.S. would need to happen on a “rolling” basis rather than all at once.
Much of Fauci’s time outside of the White House briefing room is focused on analyzing progress on blood tests to tell who was exposed to the coronavirus, crucial to determine when people can get back to work. Nevertheless, he said most tests have not yet been proven to work well.
One of the administration’s leading spokespeople on the virus, Fauci also questioned the time demanded by the daily White House briefings, spending hours each week by Trump’s side. “If I had been able to just make a few comments and then go to work, that would have really been much better,” he said.
Looking forward, he said another wave of infections isn’t predetermined. However, “if you mean it goes way down and then come September, October, November, we have another peak, I have to say I would not be surprised,” he said.
“I would hope that if and when that occurs, that we jump all over it in a much, much more effective way than we have in these past few months,” he added.
Trump’s initial doubts over the extent of the pandemic has led to a tense relationship with Fauci over the past few weeks, which might have now reached a peak. Trump retweeted this week a post calling for the doctor’s job, leading to many speculations over his position in the government.