The United States’ top infectious disease expert said Sunday that the economy in parts of the country could have a “rolling reentry” as early as next month, provided health authorities can quickly identify and isolate people who will inevitably be infected with the coronavirus.
Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.
Dr. Anthony Fauci also said he “can't guarantee" that it will be safe for Americans to vote in person on Election Day, November 3.
Rather than flipping a switch to reopen the entire country, Fauci said a gradual process will be required based on the status of the pandemic in various parts of the US and the availability of rapid, widespread testing. Once the number of people who are seriously ill sharply declines, officials can begin to “think about a gradual reentry of some sort of normality, some rolling reentry," Fauci said.
In some places, he said, that might occur as soon as May.
“We are hoping that, at the end of the month, we could 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," Fauci said.
Whenever restrictions ease, Fauci said, “we know that there will be people who will be getting infected. I mean, that is just reality.”
Social distancing guidelines imposed by President Donald Trump are set to expire April 30.
Trump is eager to restart the economy, which has stalled because most Americans are under orders to “stay at home” to help slow the virus’ spread.
But governors will have a lot to say about when to ease restrictions in their states, and the leaders of Maryland and New Jersey indicated Sunday that they are not likely to do so until widespread testing is available.
“The question is how fast we can get enough tests up to speed in order to help us get to the point where we are able to do all of those things,” Gov. Larry Hogan, R-Md., said. He said he has set no “artificial deadline.”
Gov. Phil Murphy, D-N.J., said the risks of reopening too soon are dangerously high. “And I fear, if we open up too early, and we have not sufficiently made that health recovery and cracked the back of this virus, that we could be pouring gasoline on the fire, even inadvertently” Murphy said.
Increased testing would allow authorities to identify, isolate and trace the contacts of people who are newly infected, Fauci said.
Trump continues to deny continuing problems with the coronavirus testing that’s available, including shortages and long wait times for people to learn results. He’s also resistant to the idea of more widespread testing, saying last week that “it’s unnecessary” and that “vast areas of our country don’t need this.”