Fauci says U.S. needs to ‘get better control’ of the coronavirus to reopen without outbreaks

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Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S.

Kevin Dietsch | Reuters

White House health advisory Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday that the coronavirus has hit the U.S. “very severely” and the country “needs to get better control over things” to reopen the economy and head toward normalcy. 

“The United States of America has been hit very severely by this. You just need to look at the numbers and see the number of infections in the millions and the number of deaths … keeps going up each day. We’re still seeing an increase in hospitalizations.” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in an interview. 

“We need to get better control over things. We need to open up the country because staying shut down has economic, employment, health and other negative consequences that are significant,” he said. 

The U.S. reported an additional 77,200 Covid-19 cases Thursday, a record-breaking daily increase that shattered its previous high by nearly 10,000 cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Forty-four states and the District of Columbia all reported that the seven-day average of daily new cases rose by more than 5% on Thursday from a week earlier, according to the Hopkins data.

Some states have reported climbing cases for weeks, predominantly in the American West and South. California, Florida and Texas accounted for more than half of all new U.S. cases on Thursday. Hospitalizations also appear to be growing in at least 32 states, based on a seven-day average, according to a CNBC analysis of data from the Covid Tracking Project.

“When you have more hospitalizations inevitably you’re going to see more deaths because if people are serious enough to get hospitalized a certain percentage of them are going to be very sick and a certain percentage of them are going to die, and that’s exactly what you’re seeing in certain areas,” Fauci said.

Many states across the U.S. have paused or rolled back their reopening plans to prevent further spread of Covid-19. Some of the country’s largest school districts have already announced they won’t immediately invite students back for in-person instruction in the fall as cases climb. 

“We’ve got to have a delicate balance of carefully and prudently going towards normality and opening up at the same time that we contain and not allow these surgings that we’re seeing in certain southern states,” Fauci said. “That’s a big challenge, that’s the thing I get concerned about the most.”

Fauci has reiterated that there’s been and “unfortunate mindset” that public health guidelines have become obstacles to reopening the country. He said the “default position” for the nation’s schools should be to do the best they can to return students to school while placing the safety and health of students and teachers first. 

However, there are areas of the country where the coronavirus is still spreading significantly and should consider modifying how they return students to class, including wearing masks, separating desks and rotating students’ schedules, he said. 

President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have ramped up their efforts to return students across the country to in-person classes this fall. DeVos has said that partial reopenings that combine in-person classes with online learning are unacceptable.

— CNBC’s Nate Rattner, Will Feuer and Christina Wilkie contributed to this report. 

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