Fauci: Reopening too soon could 'turn the clock back' on economic recovery

Coronavirus stimulus package $1.2 trillion bill agreed on by White House Senate

While the situation has improved in NY - the epicentre of the USA outbreak - progress has been slow elsewhere. The chairman of the committee, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander also put himself in quarantine after an aide tested positive and will participate by video, too.

Fauci contradicted claims by Trump last week that the virus would go away even without a vaccine. But as the number of deaths due to COVID-19 nationwide passes 75,000 at a rate of around 2,000 a day, he conceded that the disease hasn't yet been contained. "The consequences could be really serious".

He said opening too soon "could turn the clock back", and that not only would cause "some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to try to get economic recovery".

"We have many candidates and hope to have many winners", he told the committee.

Further, Fauci testified that the death toll is "likely higher" than the more than 80,000 people who have died as of Tuesday.

"Senator, I certainly hope so". Fauci has been in "modified quarantine" after coming into some contact with a White House staffer who later tested positive for the virus.

Tuesday's hearing was Fauci's first appearance before Congress since Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency on March 13.

"But you can diminish dramatically by testing everybody Saturday night, Sunday morning, and say 'OK, only negative players play'".

Trump has been criticised as essentially abdicating any leadership role during the pandemic, leaving states on their own to grapple with their outbreaks and even bid against each other to obtain critical medical equipment on the open market or overseas.

His administration has largely left it to states to decide whether and how to reopen. Other states that have not seen a 14-day decline, remain closed despite meeting some benchmarks.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci attends a coronavirus response meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 29, 2020.

In his testimony before the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee, Fauci said scientists are already testing possible vaccines in a phase one clinical trial with an eye of going to phase two this summer. Most significantly, Trump will not be controlling the agenda.

Democrats on the health committee largely concentrated on the risks of opening the United States economy too soon, while Republicans downplayed that notion, saying a prolonged shutdown could have serious negative impacts on people's health and the health of the economy. Now, more than 80,000 coronavirus deaths have officially been recorded in the US and health experts at the University of Washington are predicting more than 137,000 Americans will die by August.

He urged states to follow health experts' recommendations to wait for signs including a declining number of new infections before reopening. His statement came amid concern over new spikes of infection in South Korea and China.

Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., elbow bump at the start of Tuesday's committee hearing on Capitol Hill. "They should be able to get a test", he said during a press conference on Monday.

"I have never made myself out to be the end-all and only voice in this", he said. "Certain countries are setting themselves up for some seriously blind driving over the next few months".

Sanders, the ranking minority member of the committee, said he wanted to make sure the vaccine would be available for all people in the USA and that they will not have to pay for it "in order to profit the drug companies". But experts say the technology only supplements and does not replace labour-intensive human work.