Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said President Donald Trump’s recent calls for the nation “open up” again by Easter were “aspirational,” saying now was “no time to pull back” as COVID-19 continues to spread around the country.
“I think what the president was trying to do, he was making an aspirational projection to give people some hope,” Fauci told CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Thursday. “When you have a situation when the cases today compared to tomorrow is increased dramatically and then the next day is increased dramatically, that’s no time to pull back. That’s when you have to hunker down, nail down, mitigate, mitigate, mitigate, get the people taken care of.”
Fauci’s comments come as cases of the novel coronavirus skyrocket in the U.S. America became the leading country in terms of coronavirus cases on Thursday with more than 81,300 infected. More than 1,000 people have died across the nation, many in New York, one of the epicenters of the pandemic.
Trump has been pushing for the country to get back to normal in as little as two to three weeks, saying doing so would help kickstart the economy as a landmark $2 trillion stimulus package makes its way through Congress.
“I’d love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” Trump said Tuesday. “We’ll give it some more time if we need a little more time, but we need to open this country up. We have to go back to work, much sooner than people thought.”
Those calls go against the advice of many public health experts who say impatience would invite disaster. State governments and local officials have been urging Americans to stay home and practice social distancing when outside in order to mitigate the sharp rise of coronavirus infections.
Fauci said earlier this week that the public had to be “realistic” about the spread of the virus and how long it would take to get under control.
“You’ve got to understand that you don’t make the timeline; the virus makes the timeline,” he stressed.
Fauci noted on Thursday that the president has been heeding his and other public health officials’ advice throughout the pandemic, despite reports that Trump has grown frustrated with Fauci’s blunt manner and propensity to contradict White House statements.
“He’s listening to us when we say we’ve really got to reevaluate it in real time,” the doctor told CNN. “And any decision we make has to be based on the data.”
Trump has also expressed his admiration for Fauci, who has quickly become one of the country’s touchstones for scientific advice, calling him a “good man” that he likes “a lot.”
“I’ve learned a lot from Tony, from a lot of people,” Trump said on Monday. “He understand this is a tremendous test to our country. It was nobody’s fault; it just happened. This horrible virus came from nowhere. He fully understands that.”
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