National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci attends the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, US, April 13, 2020. (Photo: Agencies)
May weighed up for gradual restart, but second wave on experts' minds
WASHINGTON－A partial reopening of the US economy could begin in May, a top White House adviser on the coronavirus said on Sunday, while cautioning that there is potential for a second outbreak in the fall.
Parts of the economy could have "a gradual reentry of some sort of normality, some rolling reentry," Anthony Fauci, director of the country's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN's State of the Union.
"There is always a possibility as we get into next fall and beginning of early winter that we can see a rebound," he said.
The United States is now the country with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases and fatalities. By Monday morning, the country had reported 557,590 cases and 22,109 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
US President Donald Trump had earlier wanted the world's largest economy to be "raring to go" by Easter Sunday, but most of the country remained at a standstill and churches took celebrations online to halt the spread of the virus.
Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told the ABC network that he was "hopeful" about a reopening on May 1, but added: "I think it's too early to be able to tell that."
The US, which has 4.25 percent of the world's population, accounts for almost a fifth of the world's nearly 110,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the disease first emerged late last year.
People stand and cheer for healthcare workers outside Mount Sinai West Hospital at 7pm on Manhattan's Upper West Side during the outbreak of the COVID-19 in New York, April 13, 2020.
The New York Times, in an article published on Sunday, said Washington had failed to act quickly in part due to Trump's confidence in his gut instincts and his distrust of civil servants he brands as a conspiratorial "deep state".
Trump slammed the paper's story on Sunday evening with a familiar response: "Fake News!"
"The @nytimes story is a Fake, just like the 'paper' itself," he tweeted.
Fauci, who has advised six successive presidents, acknowledged when asked about the article that the US could have saved lives by shutting down public spaces when the disease's seriousness became clear early in the year.
"But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then," Fauci said.
Trump soon afterward posted an interview in which Fauci said that the US "early on did not get correct information".
Social distancing guidelines are set to expire on April 30. Trump is eager to restart the economy, which has stalled because most US citizens are under orders to stay home.
But governors will have a lot to say about when to ease restrictions in their states, and the leaders of Maryland and New Jersey indicated on Sunday that they are not likely to do so until widespread testing is available.
"The question is how fast we can get enough tests up to speed in order to help us get to the point where we are able to do all of those things," Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, said. He said he has set no "artificial deadline".
On Sunday, New York City saw infections surpass the 100,000 mark to reach 103,208, with 6,898 deaths. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the city would open five testing centers in the hardest-hit communities to address disparities among racial groups and, more broadly, between rich and poor.
"We cannot accept this inequality. We have to attack it with every tool we have," said De Blasio.
Public transportation in and around New York City has also been hit hard by the outbreak.
As of Friday, at least 1,900 transit workers with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority have tested positive, and at least 50 have died, according to TV station WABC.
The authority, which employs some 72,000 people, operates the city buses and subways in New York as well as commuter trains and infrastructure that serve the greater New York area.
Andrew Cohen in New York and agencies contributed to this story.