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Fauci on Easter Re-Opening: 'Be Very Flexible'

photo of coronavirus task force, fauci speaking

March 25, 2020 - At a White House briefing Tuesday on the coronavirus, President Donald Trump reiterated his wish to re-open the country and lift restrictions in a matter of weeks, not months, calling Easter, April 12, ''a great timeline." However, he said, ''we are continuing to evaluate the data. My first priority is always the health and safety of the American people."

Rather than open the entire country at once, he proposed perhaps opening sections at a time, lifting restrictions first in those areas not as hard hit. He mentioned the Farm Belt and ''big sections of Texas." With input from public health experts, Trump said, "We are working to develop a sophisticated plan to reopen the economy."

As Trump reiterated that Easter would be a "beautiful" time to lift restrictions, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the NIH's National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the President's coronavirus task force, expressed caution about a hard-and-fast date. "That's really very flexible," he said. "You can look at a date, but you have to be very flexible."

Fauci added: "We need to know what is going on in those areas of the country where there isn't an obvious outbreak. We are looking at information [on that] that up to this point we never had."

Those areas that have not yet been hard hit, he said, ''still have a window of significant degree of being able to contain the virus." They need to follow the guidelines about the 15 days to Slow the Spread campaign closely, he said.

New York City, Fauci said, ''is suffering terribly through no fault of their own. If you look at the statistics, about 1% per 1,000 are infected, about 8 to 10 times more than other areas."

Anyone who has been to New York City recently and then traveled to other areas is urged to self-isolate, said Deborah Birx, MD, another member of the coronavirus task force. Already there is evidence of new cases across Long Island, she said, suggesting people have left the city and are spreading the virus outside the metropolitan area. "If they are already 4 days out of leaving New York, then 10 more days" of self-isolation, she said.

Also at the briefing:

  • Testing is continuing to accelerate, Birx said, with 370,000 now completed, not including those done by hospital and local labs. "We did in 8 days what South Korea did in 8 weeks," she said, ''and we continue to accelerate testing." Efforts are continuing to make available a self-test that enables people to take their own sample. "It's not home testing," she said. The approach means health care workers can complete the test with gloves instead of full protective gear, she said. New cases will continue to surge, she said, because ''we are continuing to work on the backlog." Even with the increase in testing, they need to be reserved for those who need them most, said Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the task force. "If you don't have symptoms, don't get a test."
  • While the recent focus on drug therapy has been on the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic Z-pack, being used in New York City, Fauci said: "I don't want anybody to forget, we are also doing randomized clinical trials on a number of [other] candidates."
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