US President Donald Trump on Wednesday said a warning given by top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci this week about the dangers of reopening the economy too quickly was unacceptable.
“To me, it’s not an acceptable answer,” Trump told reporters at the White House, noting he was surprised by the response Fauci gave to Senators in testimony to a Senate panel on Tuesday.
Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that a premature lifting of lockdowns could lead to additional outbreaks of the deadly coronavirus.
“There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control,” Fauci said.
The 79-year-old doctor, one of the US’s most trusted voices on the coronavirus pandemic, has become a target for criticism from the American far right and online conspiracy theorists since he made statements about the outbreak that were at odds with Trump’s.
The president, who previously made the strength of the economy central to his pitch for his November reelection bid, has encouraged states to reopen businesses that had been deemed non-essential amid the pandemic.
The US has the largest coronavirus outbreak in the world by far: 1.37 million infections and more than 82,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 4.2 million people and killed some 292,000, according to the Johns Hopkins tally. Experts say the actual numbers are likely far higher.
A handful of US states started easing their lockdowns about two weeks ago, ranging from shopping malls in Texas to beach hotels in South Carolina to gyms in Wyoming. Georgia was one of the first states where some businesses were allowed to open their doors again, starting April 24 with barbershops, hair salons, gyms, bowling alleys and tattoo parlours.
But it may be five to six weeks from then before the effects are known, said Crystal Watson of Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
“As we saw early in the year, epidemics of COVID-19 start slow and take some time to build and become evident,” Watson said in an email to the Associated Press news agency.
The outbreak’s trajectory can vary greatly around the country, according to an Associated Press analysis of confirmed cases. For instance, steep increases in daily new cases are occurring in Hennepin County in Minnesota, and Fairfax County in Virginia, while in others, such as Bergen County, New Jersey, and Wayne County, Michigan, there’s been a steady decline.