WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top U.S. infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, said on Tuesday that a May 1 target date for reopening the economy was “a bit overly optimistic,” citing a lack of critical testing and tracing procedures.
“We have to have something in place that is efficient and that we can rely on, and we’re not there yet,” Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Associated Press in an interview.
President Donald Trump’s administration has recommended stay-at-home guidelines through April, and Trump himself has floated May 1 as a possible date to start reopening some areas.
The May 1 date may be “a bit overly optimistic,” Fauci said. Fauci has said reopenings would have to be done in a rolling basis, from area to area, not all at once.
Public health officials needed to be able to test for the virus quickly and to isolate new cases and track down new infections, before social distancing and other restrictions could be eased, he said.
Fauci, 79, who has become a trusted national figure during the coronavirus outbreak, also told the AP that the length of the daily White House coronavirus briefings was “really draining.”
Trump, who is running for re-election in November, has at times used the briefings to promote his role and attack political opponents. Monday’s lasted 2-1/2 hours.
“If I had been able to just make a few comments and then go to work, that would have really been much better,” Fauci told the AP. “It isn’t the idea of being there and answering questions, which I really think is important for the American public. It’s the amount of time.”
(Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)