NEW: Fauci warns quick reopening will come with a price — more infections

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WATCH: Fauci: Timeline for readiness for reopening economies will vary by state

Credit: AJC

The easing of stay-at-home restrictions in at least 31 U.S. states will likely lead to a resurgence of coronavirus cases in the coming weeks,  Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Thursday.

Explore»FROM MARCH: Dr. Fauci on coronavirus: Worst is yet to come

As the country eases toward reopening, the nation’s top infectious disease expert reiterated the need for more diagnostic testing and contact tracing in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show, urging states that are not fully prepared to take it slow and consider the most careful steps before allowing people back out in public settings like malls and restaurants.

“You can’t just leap over things and get into a situation where you’re really tempting a rebound. That’s the thing I get concerned about,” he told the network.

“We will get blips ... there’s no doubt,” Fauci said. “When you pull back there will be cases, and what we need to do is make sure (states) have in place the capability of identifying, isolating and contact tracing individuals.”

Explore»MORE: Fauci says reopening too quickly will ‘backfire’

Fauci has issued similar warnings before now.

On April 20, as protesters began ignoring their governors’ stay-at-home orders, he told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery economically is not gonna happen. So what you do if you jump the gun and go into a situation where you have a big spike, you’re gonna set yourself back.”

Fauci says as painful as it is to follow guidelines of gradually phasing into a reopening “it’s gonna backfire. That’s the problem.”

In early March he warned the nation that a vaccine would take a minimum of 12 to 18 months to be tested to see if it works - and if it is safe.

“Now anyone who thinks they will go more quickly than that, I believe will be cutting corners,” Fauci said at the time.

Fauci’s warning Thursday came a day after President Donald Trump said the federal government would not extend its social distancing guidelines past Thursday.

Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, predicted that by July the country would be “really rocking again,” despite health experts assessing that as highly unlikely.

Explore»RELATED: CDC director warns virus could come back stronger, deadlier in fall

Fauci’s admonition echoed the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who warned last week about a second wave of the coronavirus that will coincide with flu season, and bring with it the potential for a much greater toll than the nation has witnessed thus far.

Without a vaccine, the nation’s top health officials have stressed the critical importance of more testing and tracing the interactions of people who test positive for the virus, which would quickly isolate them and head off a larger outbreak.

Explore»MORE: Death threats lead to beefed-up security for nation’s top disease expert

Trump, meanwhile, is eager to reignite the economy now that the rate of new hospitalizations and cases has slowed in many states, but the U.S. death toll continues to rise.

He announced plans to resume out-of-state travel, starting with a trip to Arizona next week, after more than a month inside the White House. More campaign rallies will follow in the coming months, he said.

Explore»RELATED: Trump’s ‘Operation Warp Speed’ aims to develop 300M vaccine doses by year’s end

Trump also laid out a vision of returning to pre-coronavirus times — “with or without” a vaccine — with packed restaurants and full stadiums.

“I don’t want people to get used to this,” Trump told reporters Wednesday. “I see the new normal being what it was three months ago.”

Vice President Mike Pence said the guidelines have been incorporated into the guidance from the White House this month that lays out how states can gradually ease restrictions and begin to reopen as the rate of new cases slows.

Explore»MORE: ‘Never shake hands again,’ leading disease expert Fauci advises public

There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19, although the White House is pointing to the prospect of an experimental drug, remdesivir, which proved effective against coronavirus in a major new study.

Fauci said the drug reduced the time it takes patients to recover by 31% — 11 days on average versus 15 days for those just given usual care.

“It’s highly significant,” said the usually cautious doctor. “What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus.”

Fauci said the new drug study reminded him of the 1980’s when he was involved in the search for AIDS treatments, which gave rise to other ideas and developments.

“We think it's opening the door,” Fauci said.

Fauci was clearly much more enthusiastic about the remdesivir study than work surrounding hydroxychloroquine, which had been previously touted by President Trump and conservative media stars as a “game changer.”

— Information provided by The Associated Press was used to supplement this report. This is a developing story. Please return to for updates.