White House Health Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed his concern about prematurely reopening businesses. He told Congress on Tuesday that lifting restrictions may cause” little spikes” in coronavirus cases that erupt into full-blown outbreaks.
In hearing where witnesses and many lawmakers joined via video conference, Fauci also told a Senate committee on Tuesday that schools should not expect a vaccine or widely available treatment for Covid-19 by the time students return to campuses in the fall.
Fauci’s comments come while some states are beginning to reopen businesses despite projections suggesting it will lead to a steady rise in the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths over the next couple of weeks.
According to data provided by Johns Hopkins University, the coronavirus keeps spreading across the United States territory infecting more than 1.3 million people and killing at least 80,684 as of Tuesday morning.
Suffering and death
The health advisor finds it inconsistent that some states are loosening restrictions on social distancing when their cases of infection continue to rise.
The White House established a plan that allows states to reopen gradually as long as they are monitored under some “check points.”
“What I’ve expressed then and again is my concern that if some areas, cities, states, what have you, jump over those various check points and prematurely open up without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently my concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” he said.
“There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you might not be able to control, which, in fact, paradoxically, will set you back, not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery. We would almost turn the clock back, rather than going forward,” he testified.
A vaccine is still a long way off
Under these circumstances, Fauci sees the discovery of a vaccine as essential to stop the spread of the coronavirus and reduce the death rate from the pandemic. However, he stressed that it will not be an easy task. There are still many obstacles to overcome before it can be effectively implemented.
“Even at the top speed we’re going, we don’t see a vaccine playing in the ability of individuals to get back to school this term,” he said.
Until a vaccine is ready, Fauci said, the country’s “Covid-19 response currently is focused on the proven public health practices of containment and mitigation,” he said in written testimony submitted ahead of the hearing. Even though there are more than 100 potential vaccines under development, Fauci warned“there’s no guarantee that the vaccine is actually going to be effective.”
Another highly worrying possibility warned by epidemiologists is that the vaccine backfires and strengthens the virus.
There have been at least two vaccines in the past that have produced a “suboptimal response,” he said. “And when the person gets exposed, they actually have an enhanced pathogenesis of the disease, which is always worrisome. So we want to make sure that that doesn’t happen. Those are the two major unknowns.”
President Donald Trump has previously said there could a vaccine by the end of the year, contradicting predictions from his own U.S. health officials and scientists who say it will take a year to 18 months at the earliest.