In an interview with CNBC broadcast on Friday, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said that he is “totally in favor” of reopening the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic if it is done responsibly, Newsweek reported.
“Now is the time, depending on where you are and what your situation is, to begin seriously looking at reopening the economy. I’m totally in favor of that, if done in the proper way in the appropriate setting.”
President Donald Trump has long claimed that the country needs to reopen as soon as possible for the good of the economy, but Fauci has been reluctant to embrace such suggestions, calling for a more cautious approach centered on concerns over public health.
Last month, Fauci said that there could be a “big spike” in COVID-19 cases if the country started reopening. During his testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last week, he once again called for a more conservative approach, arguing that reopening too soon could hurt both public health and the economy.
As Newsweek noted, Fauci’s Friday remarks appeared far more optimistic. The public health expert even argued that continuing lockdown measures could do “irreparable damage” to the economy and said that “we are enthusiastic about reopening.”
“I don’t want people to think that any of us feel that staying locked down for a prolonged period of time is the way to go,” he said, noting that the gradual openings would have to be done on a regional and state-by-state basis in order to avoid another outbreak of COVID-19.
The public health expert also said that Americans should continue following social distancing guidelines, should wear masks, and should avoid large crowds of people.
Some local leaders have appeared eager to reopen their economies. For instance, the state of Georgia reopened last month without waiting for the federal government’s approval. According to Fauci, those who decide to not respect national guidelines need to “proceed with caution.”
Americans trust Fauci’s judgment, according to recent polls. A Quinnipiac University poll released in April posited that 78 percent of Americans approve of the way Fauci is handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump has reportedly had disagreements with Fauci, and prefers working with Dr. Deborah Birx. There are allegedly tensions between the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the White House, with Birx being an influential voice for the latter.