Fauci to warn of 'needless suffering and death' during congressional testimony on 'the danger of trying to open the country prematurely'

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesDr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at a coronavirus press briefing on April 16.
  • The infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told The New York Times in an email that he planned to warn the Senate about the “danger of trying to reopen the country prematurely.”
  • Fauci was set to testify before the Senate Health Education, Labour, and Pensions Committee on Tuesday in his first appearance before Congress since Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic.
  • “If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to: ‘Open America Again,’ then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country,” Fauci wrote in the email. “This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.”
  • In mid-April, the White House revealed its “Opening Up America Again” plan, a three-phase road map for states to relax their stay-at-home orders.
  • The Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security also released four criteria meant to guide governors in deciding when to reopen their economies.
  • A Johns Hopkins researcher testified before Congress last week, however, that none of the states that were starting to lift their lockdowns had met the criteria.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading member of the White House coronavirus task force, has said he plans to issue a stark warning before the Senate on the “danger of trying to open up the country prematurely,” The New York Times reported.

In what is set to be his first appearance before Congress since President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus, Fauci is scheduled to testify before the Senate Committee on Health Education, Labour, and Pensions on Tuesday.

The head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases wrote in an email to The Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg that he intended to convey to the Senate committee the “danger” of opening up the country without following the White House’s “Opening Up America Again” guidelines.

“If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to: ‘Open America Again,’ then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country,” Fauci wrote in the email. “This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.”

The White House in mid-April released its road map to reopening. It includes a three-pronged plan for states to relax their stay-at-home orders and relies heavily on increased testing and mass contact tracing.

“Even if you are in phase one, two, three, it’s not, OK, game over – it’s going to be a way that we protect ourselves,” Fauci said during the press conference announcing the reopening plan.

After federal guidelines that essentially recommended lockdowns expired on April 30, some states have been looking to ease their restrictions and reopen their economies. A Johns Hopkins University researcher testified to Congress last week that no state had met the Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security’s criteria for reopening safely.

The Johns Hopkins guidance, consisting of four criteria, was meant to help governors decide whether they could safely reopen their state. The researcher, Caitlin Rivers, however, testified that no state had met them.

“It is clear to me that we are in a critical moment in this fight,” she said. “We risk complacency in accepting the preventable deaths of 2,000 Americans each day. We risk complacency in accepting that our healthcare workers do not have what they need to do their jobs safely. And we risk complacency in recognising that without continued vigilance in slowing transmission, we will again create the conditions that led to us being the worst-affected country in the world.”

With states still opening up without meeting reopening guidance, experts are saying there could be a second wave of coronavirus cases in the fall or even sooner.

“We’re not reopening based on science,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Times. “We’re reopening based on politics, ideology, and public pressure. And I think it’s going to end badly.”

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