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.
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.
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.
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.
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 AJC.com for updates.