On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci explained President Donald Trump’s decision to extend social distancing guidelines through the month of April, per The Hill. The nation’s top infectious disease expert told CNN’s John Berman on New Day that Trump “did listen” to arguments that ending social distancing guidelines could cause an “acceleration or rebound” of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases.
“It was a pretty clear picture. Dr. Debbie Birx and I went in together in the Oval Office and leaned over the desk and said, ‘Here are the data. Take a look.’ He looked at them, he understood them and he just shook his head and said, ‘I guess we got to do it.'”
Fauci added that he and Brix cited the rising hospitalizations in New York City and New Orleans — and the fact that the number of cases continues to climb — as factors in the president’s decision.
Trump announced on Sunday that he would be extending the nationwide social distancing guidelines that were set to expire on Monday. The 30-day extension is a shift from some of Trump’s previous statements over the past week — statements suggesting that the guidelines would be relaxed in some regions, and that the economy could be fully re-opened on April 12.
As of publishing, there are more than 141,000 cases of COVID-19 in the United States, with 2,461 deaths being attributed to the virus nationwide, per CNN. In his press conference announcing the extension of guidelines, Trump suggested that the the number of deaths attributed to the coronavirus would peak in two weeks based on scientific models, but he is expecting the United States to be “on our way to recovery” by June 1.
Birx and Fauci went into Oval together and leaned over Resolute desk and said, “Here are the data. Take a look,” Fauci said on CNN. Fauci said Trump looked at the coronavirus numbers and said, “I guess we've got to do it” and decided to extend social distancing through April 30. pic.twitter.com/bs8g6HjayM
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) March 30, 2020
Fauci also expanded on a comment he made Sunday, when he told CNN’s Jake Tapper that there could be 100,000 or more deaths — and millions of confirmed cases — in the United States as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. When asked if so many deaths were a reasonable expectation with measures such as social isolating in place, Fauci said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if COVID-19 escalated to this level.
“If you look at seasonal flu, we had a bad season in 2017-18. We lost over 60,000 people just in a seasonal flu. This is clearly worse than that. So I would not be surprised. I don’t want to see it. I’d like to avoid it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw 100,000 deaths.”
Fauci did note that his projections are prone to shift, due to the fact that the virus has become a “moving target” for healthcare officials.