Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top public health expert, warned in Senate testimony on Tuesday that the official coronavirus death toll in the US is an undercount, and that “the consequences could be really serious” if America relaxes safeguards against Covid-19 too abruptly.
My concern it that we will start to see little spikes that will turn into outbreaks,” Fauci said.
Fauci appeared before the Senate as Donald Trump declared that the US had “prevailed” in the struggle to stand up its testing program and encouraged businesses and schools to reopen.
Fauci warned against reopening the country before local benchmarks, including robust testing and contact tracing, had been put in place. In most areas in the US, testing for asymptomatic people is rare, and contact tracing is extremely limited.
He said: “There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you might not be able to control. Not only leading to some suffering and death, but it could even set you back on the road to get economic recovery.”
Fauci, 79, has led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and has become a trusted public figure.
In response to a question from the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, Fauci said the official death toll of about 80,000 in the US was probably low.
“Most of us feel that the number of deaths are likely higher than that number,” he said.
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