Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci seemingly pushed back Wednesday night against President Donald Trump’s desire to quickly end coronavirus restrictions and reopen the economy, noting that “the virus makes the timeline.”
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, appeared on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time to discuss the growing pandemic and the administration's efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Anchor Chris Cuomo at one point noted that there’s currently “two different points of pressure” from opposing directions: those who want to bring social distancing to an end and open the country back up and others arguing that we need to maintain restrictions much longer because mitigation isn’t close to complete.
The CNN host then brought up his brother, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has repeatedly warned that his state is still seeing accelerating cases.
“You’re absolutely correct, 100 percent, Chris,” the doctor replied. “It’s accelerating. And what you’ve got to do is when you have a big country like this, you’ve got to look at it in different ways.”
He went on to say that while he definitely wouldn’t lift any restrictions on New York now, there are other parts of the country “which we need to get a better feel for what is going on.”
“And the way we do that is by increasing testing and identifying people who are infected, isolating them, getting out of circulation, and then do contact tracing,” Fauci continued. “That’s what we call containment. So you can do containment and maybe ease up a bit in one area, whereas in other areas where it’s mitigation, all you got to do is put all your resources in there to help the people who are under this stressful situation.”
After Fauci said that there could be different strategies for different parts of the country, Cuomo noted that the Los Angeles mayor said it could take months before they’re back to normal while New York says it is still two to three weeks before the hospitals experience their worst crush of patients.
“I mean, it seems that the timeline is getting extended farther out, not that things are going better than expected anywhere,” Cuomo added.
“What you’ve got to do, Chris, you’ve got to be realistic and you’ve got to understand that you don’t make the timeline,” Fauci replied. “The virus makes the timeline. So you’ve got to respond in what you see happen.”
“And if you keep seeing this acceleration, it doesn’t matter what you say—one week, two weeks, three weeks—you’ve got to go with what the situation on the ground is,” he continued. “So when people say it may take months, I think what people are talking about is how long it takes to go all the way down.”
The infectious disease expert concluded by noting that you can’t “make an arbitrary decision” because “you need the data.”
The president, meanwhile, has recently floated Easter as the day he’d like for the administration’s social distancing policy to be lifted because he thought it was a “beautiful timeline” and he’d love to see the churches “packed” that day.
It has recently been reported that Trump’s patience with Fauci, who has frequently attempted to correct the president's many misstatements on the pandemic, has worn thin. At the same time, pro-Trump media has begun to increasingly take pointed shots at the universally admired figure.