Dr. Anthony Fauci, the lead U.S. coronavirus expert, warned Thursday against reopening the country too quickly for fear of giving the pandemic new life.
As some U.S. state governors moved to reopen commerce, Fauci urged them to “go very slowly” if they do not have the capability to do contact tracing of known coronavirus patients.
“You can't just leap over things and get into a situation where you're really tempting a rebound," Fauci told NBC’s Today show. "That's the thing I get concerned about. I hope they don't do that."
Several state governors have said in recent days that restaurants, retail stores, hair and nail salons, bowling alleys and other establishments can begin to reopen if they choose to do so.
President Donald Trump had said earlier in the week that he would be ending the federal request that Americans maintain at least a two-meter physical distance from other people. The guideline was set to expire Thursday night.
Even as the U.S. coronavirus death toll continued to climb — it passed 63,000 late Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics — Trump told reporters at the White House that he had done a “spectacular job” in dealing with the pandemic.
"There was not a single person that needed a ventilator that didn’t get one,” he said.
In all, nine states are planning to allow some businesses to reopen. Another 16 are lifting orders or planning to allow businesses to reopen soon, while the remaining 25 states remain shut or have restrictions on normal business operations.
Fauci said states looking to reopen commerce should follow federal guidelines and begin to resume operations only if they have a two-week decline in the number of new coronavirus cases, a standard some of them have not met.
Fauci said states must be able to identify and isolate people who test positive because "there will be blips — there’s no doubt."
'Operation Warp Speed'
Fauci said he was working with the Trump administration’s "Operation Warp Speed" project to try to develop a coronavirus vaccine as quickly as possible.
Fauci said that it was “in the realm of possibility” for hundreds of millions of coronavirus vaccine doses to be ready by January.
“We want to go quickly, but we want to make sure it's safe and it's effective,” he said. “I think that is doable if things fall in the right place.
“We're going to start ramping up production with the companies involved, and you do that at risk. In other words, you don't wait until you get an answer before you start manufacturing — assuming it's going to work,” he said. “And if it does, then you can scale up and hopefully get to that timeline” of massive production by early 2021.