By Nikhila Natarajan
New York: America’s top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci cautioned on Tuesday that it would be a “bridge too far” to think that COVID19 treatment or vaccines would be ready in time for the Fall 2020 reopening of schools, and warned of “really serious” consequences if states lift stay-at-home orders too quickly, even as President Trump pushes them to act against the backdrop of a free-falling economy.
Dr Fauci, who is self-quarantining after a White House staffer tested positive for the virus, is one among four health experts who testified remotely to a Senate panel. Other experts included FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, Dr. Robert Redfield, head of CDC — both in self-quarantine — and Admiral Brett Giroir, from the Department of Health and Human Services.
“The idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate the reentry of students into the full term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far,” Fauci said.
He explained that the drugs that have shown efficacy so far have been used on hospitalized patients and are not even close to being used as prophylaxis or treatment for students.
“Even at the top speed we’re going, we don’t see a vaccine, playing to the ability of individuals to get back to school, this term,” Fauci said, putting an official stamp on the likely medical state of play this September.
Fauci urged Americans to “better be very careful particularly when it comes to children” because this cohort is now presenting with inflammatory symptoms very similar to Kawasaki Syndrome.
Under attack from Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky who said Fauci isn’t the “end all” and that the US should go the Sweden way and open up schools, Fauci’s response hinged on the theme that the world’s best doctors still don’t know enough about the virus. That, he said, should make us all even more careful with young populations.
Fauci’s comments riffed on his own most repeated lines from White House briefings over the last two months. “There is no doubt”, he said, “even under the best of circumstances, when you pull back on mitigation, you will see some cases appear.”
“And if there is a rush to reopen without following guidelines, my concern is we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks.” The consequences could be “really serious”, he said.
The prospect of the COVID19 outbreak becoming worse in the fall “does exist”, according to Fauci.
Responding to a question from Senator Elizabeth Warren, Fauci said America does not have COVID19 completely under control.
“At least eight candidate COVID-19 vaccines are in clinical development”, Fauci said during his opening remarks.
Fauci, a critical member of the White House coronavirus task force, is warning Congress that reopening the economy too soon during the pandemic will result in “needless suffering and death.” He urged states to “go by the guidelines”, referring to the detailed rubric put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) but reportedly shelved by the White House.
More than 30 states have had a 14-day downward trajectory of either cases or positive test rates and 25 are partially opened or moving to reopen very soon.