US expert Fauci: Economy will not be reopened all at once

The top US public health official on coronavirus cautioned on Sunday that reopening the economy will have to be done in stages, with different areas of the country acting in ways uniquely suited to their situations.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, declined to commit to any date, saying there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach and that the pathway will depend on the potential for new outbreaks in different regions of the US.

“You want to make sure you don’t do something prematurely and precipitously, at the same time you pay attention to the need to try and get back to normal,” Fauci told CNN.

President Donald Trump is keen to reopen the economy sooner rather than later – as more than 16 million people lost their jobs so far due to shutdowns – but has pledged to listen to expert advice, even as he has also indicated he could follow his instincts.

Trump initially wanted the country reopened for this Easter weekend, but he agreed to push it back, amid a spike in cases. The new goal is early May, but the head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told ABC News this may also be too ambitious as a nationwide objective.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said that he was hopeful, and May 1 remains “a target,” but added that “it’s too early to be able to tell that.”

Some 95 per cent of the US is under forms of stay-at-home guidelines, and many businesses are shut.

Fauci could not promise that there will not be a resurgent outbreak later in the year, but said the federal government was aiming to expand testing and tracing capacities by then, along with the development of medical treatments for the coronavirus.

Mayors and governors in hard-hit areas have cautioned against opening too quickly, especially without testing capacity in place. States in the US are on different timelines and some have imposed stricter mitigation efforts.

Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, the US financial capital and epicentre of the pandemic, said “we want to reopen as soon as possible” but “we need to be smart” about it.

“The last thing we want to see is an uptick in that infection rate and an uptick in those numbers that we worked so hard to bring down,” he told a daily press conference.

Minneapolis Federal Reserve chief Neel Kashkari warned on CBS that the economy may suffer for a while still, until there is a therapy or a vaccine. “It’s hard for me to see a V-shaped recovery,” Kashkari said. He said the country needs an 18-month strategy.

“We are going to have to be smart about how we reopen the economy with those who are lowest at risk,” he cautioned, until medical advancements are made.

The US saw its highest single-day death toll last week, when more than 2,000 people died, but Fauci said the rate of hospitalization is in decline in key hotspots like New York and New Jersey, signalling that the country may have “started to turn a corner.”

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Echoing Fauci’s remarks, Cuomo said data showed that the virus’ spread was slowing in New York.

But in “terrible” news, the governor said 758 more people had died due to the virus in New York, marking the sixth consecutive day with more than 700 deaths and bringing the state’s overall death toll to 9,385.

The US has the highest number of confirmed cases in the world, with New York alone recording more infections than any other country. The US death toll is also the highest, having surpassed 20,600. (dpa)

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