Anthony Fauci, the head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has emerged as a new national hero during the coronavirus crisis. PHOTO: AFP

Fauci breaks with Trump, discourages US protests

Top infectious disease expert warns protests will 'backfire' after Trump says he stands with demonstrators

Anadolu Agency April 20, 2020
WASHINGTON DC: Dr Anthony Fauci, a top US infectious disease expert, warned Monday against mass anti-stay-at-home demonstrations, breaking again with President Donald Trump.

"Clearly this is something that is hurting from the standpoint of economics, from the standpoint of things that have nothing to do with the virus, but unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery, economically, is not going to happen," Fauci said on the Good Morning America television program.

"If you jump the gun, and go into a situation where you have a big spike you're going to set yourself back, so as painful as it is to go by the careful guidelines of gradually phasing into a reopening, it's going to backfire," he added.

The warning follows weekend protests in cities across the country after Trump emboldened them on Friday, telling residents in states led by Democratic governors to "LIBERATE" those states from measures meant to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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Successive governors across the country have taken steps to shutter non-essential businesses and order residents to remain at home for all but the most urgent tasks.

The protests spread to several metropolises over the weekend, including Denver, Colorado; San Diego, California; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Landing, Michigan.

Asked about demonstrations during his Sunday news conference, Trump said "As far as protesters, you know, I see protesters for all sorts of things."

"And I’m with everybody. I'm with everybody," he said, despite the fact that the gatherings are a violation of the guidelines he issued to reopen the US economy.

"Some governors have gone too far. Some of the things that happened are maybe not so appropriate," he added.

Commenting on nascent tests that seek to check for coronavirus antibodies, Fauci said that while some companies are "flooding the market" with their versions, many of the tests have not been properly vetted.

"The problem is that these are tests that need to be validated and calibrated, and many of the tests don't do that," he said, further warning that health officials have yet to determine whether a person who has an antibody in their system would be protected against re-infection.

"We don't know how long that protection, if it exists, lasts," he said.

The Trump administration announced Sunday that it would begin requiring nursing homes to report confirmed coronavirus deaths to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, months into the US outbreak.

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Many nursing homes and elderly care facilities have been hotbeds of coronavirus infections and deaths, serving populations that are highly vulnerable to Covid-19, the respiratory illnesses caused by the virus.

Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said the new guidelines would require the facilities to inform loved ones when a patient tests positive for the virus.

"It's important that patients and their families have the information that they need, and they need to understand what's going on in the nursing home," she said.

There are 760,000 confirmed coronavirus infections in the US, including 40.702 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Over 70,000 people have recovered.