Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, did the full Ginsburg on Sunday morning and appeared on all five major Sunday news shows to discuss the coronavirus crisis. His message: America should prepare for a nationwide shutdown to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Reacting to images of crowded bars and restaurants across the country this weekend, the infectious diseases expert noted that much of the American public did not appear to be taking the threat of the virus seriously.
“I would like to see a dramatic diminution of the personal interaction we see in restaurants and in bars,” Fauci told guest host Brianna Keilar on CNN’s State of the Union. “Whatever it takes to do that, that's what I would like to see.”
Asked on Meet the Press if it was a mistake that bars and restaurants hadn’t been temporarily shut down over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend while European countries are on lockdown to mitigate the crisis, Fauci said America should implement closures, especially “in those areas that have community spread.”
“The question is you want to bring down and hunker down everywhere, even more so,” he added. “Everybody has to get involved in distancing themselves socially. If you are in an area where there’s clear community spread, you have to be much, much more intense about how you do that.”
Host Chuck Todd, meanwhile, wanted to know if Fauci would call for a national 14-day shutdown to slow the spread, particularly if the federal government could treat this as a natural disaster and give people money for the basics.
“You know, I would prefer as much as we possibly could,” Fauci replied. “I think we should really be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting.”
He also said that he had made this view known within the administration, adding that Americans should be prepared for more closures.
Fauci was also pressed on the news shows about the slow rollout of coronavirus testing across the country. Todd, for instance, said that “every week” we’ve been told that this is ramping up with no real change, so why should the public be confident that this week we’ll see anything different.
“I think the reason is because we really made somewhat of a sea change here,” the doctor responded. “Obviously, early on, we weren’t in the situation where we could actually get the tests out in a broad way.”
Fauci went on to note that the private sector getting involved meant that testing would be in “full overdrive” and we will soon see “a major escalation of capability and implementation.”
Furthermore, Fauci also wanted to remind younger Americans that it was possible that they could get seriously ill if infected.
“Younger people should be concerned for two reasons. You are not immune or safe from getting seriously ill,” he said on State of the Union.
The infectious diseases expert was also pressed throughout his appearances on the scenes from Chicago’s O’Hare airport of massive overcrowding due to the president’s recent European travel ban, which has caused many Americans abroad to rush back home in a panic.
“We would like to not see crowds like that,” he said on Fox News Sunday. “What people need to understand is if you're an American citizen, you can get back. You don't need to rush back, you will be able to get back. But it's understandable how when people see the travel ban, they immediately want to hunker [down] and get home. Hopefully, we don't have more of that. But I think we probably, unfortunately will see that.”
Asked by host Chris Wallace if this wasn’t a problem in terms of spreading disease, Fauci acknowledged that these massive crowds were counter to what they are trying to implement with social distancing. He called on American travelers to realize that there is nothing preventing them from getting home and to take their time.
He didn’t think, however, that the administration should take the lion’s share of the blame for the airport issues, despite it being largely due to the confusing announcement of its travel ban.
“I don’t think anything went wrong,” he claimed on Meet the Press. “It’s the nature of the problem. When you have a situation when people are in different countries, there are going to be restrictions. American citizens, their family, they can get back. They don’t need to immediately get back because they think they’re going to get left out.”