A top U.S. health official told a congressional committee Tuesday that lifting coronavirus restrictions too quickly could lead to "little spikes and turn into outbreaks."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said "the consequences could be really serious" if states skip over checkpoints in a three-phase White House plan.
Fauci testified remotely from his office outside Washington while self-quarantining after he came in contact last week with Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Three other top U.S. health officials, Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, are testifying remotely before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Opening the hearing, Senator Lamar Alexander said "staying home indefinitely is not the solution to this pandemic." But he said the United States needs widespread testing, "millions more tests to give Americans enough confidence to go back to work and back to school."
Senator Patty Murray accused President Donald Trump of being more focused on fighting against the trust than fighting the virus.
Health officials have warned for weeks that easing stay-at-home restrictions and allowing businesses to resume operations too quickly could lead to a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, both endangering public health and harming the Trump administration’s push to kickstart economic activity.
The White House plan outlines several recommendations for states as they consider how to ease restrictions, including that they should show a downward trajectory in positive tests and a two-week fall in documented cases, as well as strong systems for tracing the contacts of those who test positive.
Fauci is one of four top officials set to appear Tuesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee for a hearing titled “Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School.”
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, and the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Stephen Hahn, along with Fauci, are giving their testimony remotely because they are self-isolating after having contact with a White House staffer who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, is also participating in the meeting.
The United States has more than 1.3 million confirmed cases and 80,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.