Dr. Anthony Fauci will testify before the United States Senate on Tuesday, warning that reopening public spaces too soon will lead to "needless death and suffering." The infectious disease expert has become a familiar face around the nation because of his frequent appearances on President Donald Trump's coronavirus press briefings. He shared the gist of his comments with a New York Times reporter on Monday night.
"The major message that I wish to convey to the Senate [Health Education, Labor and Pensions] committee tomorrow is the danger of trying to open the country prematurely," Fauci wrote. "If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to: 'Open America Again,' then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country. This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal."
Fauci was referring to the states that are currently trying to reopen certain businesses and work around social distancing guidelines without meeting some of the criteria he has laid out. The White House has issued a three-phase plan called Opening Up America Again, which describes some of the benchmarks states should meet and the incremental steps towards reopening that they can take at those points.
One of the most important recommendations in the plan is that states have a "downward trajectory of positive tests" or a "downward trajectory of documented cases" of COVID-19 for two consecutive weeks. States are also advised to increase contact tracing efforts and "sentinel surveillance" testing of people in vulnerable populations, such as nursing homes — even if they are asymptomatic.
This will be Fauci's first appearance before the U.S. legislature since March, when Trump declared a state of emergency. He will reportedly chime in via video chat to demonstrate his dedication to social distancing. Fauci said that he is still in a "modified quarantine" of his own, after a "low risk" exposure to someone who was infected with the coronavirus.
This Senate comes after Fauci was blocked from testifying on coronavirus spending in front of another committee in the U.S. Congress. According to CBS News, Trump told reporters last week that he blocked Fauci from testifying before the House because it is led by a Democratic majority. He said: "The House is a setup. The House is a bunch of Trump haters."
Other public health experts have said that this kind if partisan consideration should be thrown out during the coronavirus crisis. Former CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden told The Times: "We're not reopening based on science, we're reopening based on politics, ideology and public pressure. And I think it's going to end badly."