Top U.S. health officials on Tuesday called for more caution and testing as many states are reopening or planning to reopen.
Anthony Fauci, a top expert on infectious diseases, told a Senate panel during a teleconference hearing that the nation has not had the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected over 1.3 million people in the country with more than 80,000 deaths, under total control yet.
“If you think we have it completely under control, no we don’t,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“If you look at the dynamics of the outbreak, we are seeing a diminution of hospitalizations and infections in some places — such as in New York City, which has plateaued and is starting to come down,” he noted. “But in other parts of the country, we are seeing spikes.”
Also a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, Fauci said he believes that the nation is “going in the right direction, but the right direction does not mean we have, by any means, total control of this outbreak.”
The hearing on the White House’s response to the pandemic came as the United States is debating whether it is safe for states to open up, prompted by a growing economic pressure and massive job losses.
Fauci warned that states could face serious consequences if they open up prematurely.
“My concern is that if some areas, city, states or what have you, jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently… we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” he said. “The consequences could be really serious.”
He also said that even states that are acting properly in reopening could see a rise in coronavirus cases.
“Even under the best of circumstances, when you pull back on mitigation, you will see some cases appear,” Fauci said. “It’s the ability and the capability of responding to those cases with good identification, isolation and contact tracing will determine whether you can continue to go forward, as you try to reopen America.”
Besides, he told U.S. lawmakers that it is “entirely conceivable and possible” that a second wave will happen this fall. He also dismissed a “cavalier” thinking that children are immune to the coronavirus.
Also attending the hearing remotely, Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the nation must have an extensive capacity to test for the coronavirus before it can lift certain restrictions.
“Rapid, extensive and widely available, timely testing is essential to reopening America,” said Redfield, adding that contact tracing is critical because it can prevent some community transmission.
Senator Lamar Alexander, who presided the hearing, said that testing in the United States is “not nearly enough.”
“All roads back to work and school go through testing,” the Republican said. “The more tests we conduct, the better we can identify those who are sick and exposed, and we can quarantine the sick and exposed instead of trying to quarantine the whole country.”
Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, also gave their testimonies. Enditem