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Stay-home orders that extend too long could cause the U.S. “irreparable damage,” Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Friday.
Strict crackdowns on large gatherings and other orders such as for home quarantines, social distancing and use of face masks were needed when the coronavirus first hit the nation, but those rules can now begin to be lifted in many parts of the country, Fauci said during an interview on CNBC.
“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,” the member of the White House coronavirus task force said.
“But now is the time, depending upon where you are and what your situation is, to begin to seriously look at reopening the economy, reopening the country to try to get back to some degree of normal.”
He warned, however, against reckless reopenings and called for the use of “very significant precautions” as restrictions are lifted.
“In general, I think most of the country is doing it in a prudent way,” he said. “There are obviously some situations where people might be jumping over that. I just say, ‘Please, proceed with caution if you’re going to do that.’”
Fauci’s comments came one day after two top Republicans – Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona – wrote in an op-ed that Fauci’s initial safety recommendations had “emasculated” the nation’s health care system and “ruined” its economy.
“Fauci and company have relied on models that were later found to be deficient. He even has suggested that he can’t rely on any of the models, especially if the underlying assumptions are wrong,” the pair wrote in USA Today. “Yet, Fauci persists in advocating policies that have emasculated the medical care system and ruined the economy.”
They also pointed to Fauci’s testimony last week before a Senate committee that opening too soon would “result in needless suffering and death.”
“What about the countless stories of needless suffering and death produced by Fauci’s one-size-fits-all approach to public health?” Paul and Biggs asked.
They called for policies based on trusting the risk assessment of the American people rather than a federal government mandate.
Earlier Friday, Fauci said it was “conceivable” that the U.S. could begin to distribute a coronavirus vaccine by December.
“Back in January of this year when we started the phase 1 trial, I said it would likely be between a year and 18 months before we would have a vaccine,” Fauci said during an interview on NPR. “I think that schedule is still intact.
“I think it is conceivable,” he continued, “if we don’t run into things that are, as they say, unanticipated setbacks, that we could have a vaccine that we could be beginning to deploy at the end of this calendar year, December 2020, or into January, 2021.”
Fox News’ Morgan Phillips contributed to this story.