‘It’s going to backfire’: Fauci warns against reopening too quickly amid coronavirus crisis

  • Protesters gather outside the Capital Complex in Harrisburg, Pa., on Monday. They are calling for Gov. Tom Wolf to reopen up the state’s economy during the coronavirus outbreak. The Philadelphia Inquirer — DAVID MAIALETTI

  • Protesters gather outside the Capital Complex in Harrisburg, PA on April 20, 2020. They are calling for Gov. Wolf to reopen up the state's economy during the coronavirus outbreak. (David Maialetti/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS) DAVID MAIALETTI

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    Graffiti that reads "COVID 19" is pictured behind a locked gate in Philadelphia's Fishtown section on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. The city has directed residents to stay at home except for essential activities. (Tim Tai/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS) TIM TAI

Los Angeles Times
Published: 4/20/2020 4:58:37 PM

As the rate of new infections and deaths from the coronavirus slowed in parts of the country Monday, some local governments began to ease stay-at-home restrictions while others pleaded with residents to stay put amid scattered protests in support of reopenings.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned Americans against trying too quickly to return to normal.

“It’s going to backfire,” Fauci said in an interview on Good Morning America. “That’s the problem.”

This week, Texas state parks reopened, as did beaches in South Carolina, both with physical distancing rules in place. But in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Monday that although the state appears to be moving past the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the possibility of “horrifically high” death rates remains if restrictions ease too fast.

In New York City, the worst-hit place in the country, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that health care workers could run out of surgical gowns by next week. Underlining the continued crisis in the city, the mayor canceled permits for major public events in June, which included New York’s Pride March and Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Statewide in New York, officials reported 478 people died Sunday of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. That’s a drop from a week ago, when the disease killed close to 800 people each day. Hospitalizations have also declined in the state.

The mood was less somber elsewhere.

American flag-waving demonstrators gathered Monday in Harrisburg, Pa., with signs that included the phrases “The media is the virus” and “Jesus is my vaccine,” and another small group stood with similar messages outside the North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck.

Speaking on Fox News on Monday, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway echoed President Donald Trump’s support of the protest movements.

Conway said some state governors, including Michigan’s, have “physically distanced from common sense” in placing restrictions. By example, she cited the state shutting down gardening stores but allowing marijuana dispensaries to operate.

Trump has pushed for states to ease restrictions and reopen, and promised over the weekend to rapidly ramp up the testing needed to ensure it is safe to do so.

On Sunday, he said at a White House briefing that the country would “have so many swabs you won’t know what to do with,” referring to nasal coronavirus testing kits. Vice President Mike Pence said states could double the 150,000 tests per day they are conducting.

But health experts and governors, including some Republicans, have warned that much higher testing capacity is needed in order to quickly detect new outbreaks once economic activity resumes. One Democrat, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, has called Trump’s views on reopening “delusional.”

In his Monday interview, Fauci acknowledged the economic havoc that efforts to contain the virus have caused.

“The message is that clearly this is something that is hurting, from the standpoint of economics and the standpoint of things that have nothing to do with the virus,” he said.

The U.S. still lags behind other nations in coronavirus testing even as it leads the world in number of infections and deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Nearly 41,000 people in the country have died.

Some local health clinics around the nation have put faith in the dozens of new kinds of antibody tests that promise to determine if patients have already recovered from the virus without showing symptoms. But nearly all of those tests remain unapproved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Fauci warned on Monday against relying on them.

“The assumption that, with the tests that are out there, if you have an antibody positivity, you are good to go — unless that test has been validated, and you can show there’s a correlation between the antibody and protection, it is an assumption to say that this is something that we can work with,” he said.

“We still have a way to go.”

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