Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top immunologist, said Sunday that lives could have been saved if the U.S. had been shut down earlier, but there was “pushback” against the idea.
In an interview on CNN, Fauci said the government had been advised to begin implementing social distances measures in February, just a couple weeks after the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in the U.S.
In mid-March, President Trump announced plans to call for “self-isolation,” asking Americans to stay in their homes if they could.
Asked by CNN host Jake Tapper why the president didn’t accept the earlier recommendations, Fauci said, “You know, Jake, as I have said many times, we look at it from a pure health standpoint. We make a recommendation. Often, the recommendation is taken. Sometimes it’s not. But we – it is what it is. We are where we are right now.”
Tapper asked Fauci if lives could have been saved if stay-at-home orders had begun earlier.
“Obviously, no one is going to deny that. But what goes into those decisions is complicated,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
“But you’re right, I mean, obviously, if we had right from the very beginning shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then,” he said.
More than 40 states now have stay-at-home orders for residents, but the virus has continued to spread across the U.S. On Friday, there were 2,000 deaths in the U.S. in 24 hours, and there are now at least 530,000 confirmed cases in the country, with 20,614 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
While Tapper asked Fauci repeatedly about whether the Trump administration was slow to shut things down, he also asked several times when the U.S. might begin lifting isolation restrictions.
“It’s not going to be a light switch,” he said, adding that there will likely be a “rolling re-entry.” “It’s going to be depending where you are in the country, the nature of the outbreak that you already experienced, and the threat of an outbreak that you may not have experienced.”
Fauci also expressed “cautious optimism” that New York, the hardest hit by the virus, has started to flatten the upward curve of new infections.
“It’s started to turn a corner… it’s cautious optimism that we are seeing that decrease. Once you turn that corner, hopefully we will see a very sharp decline. Then you can start thinking about how we can keep it that way and prevent it from re-surging,” he said.
“I think it could probably start at least in some ways maybe next month,” Fauci said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We are hoping by the end of the month we can look around and say, ‘OK, is there any element here that we can safely and cautiously start pulling back on.’ If so, do it. If not, then just continue to hunker down.”