Fauci says task force 'argued strongly' with Trump to extend coronavirus guidelines

Dr. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTillis appears to reinforce question about COVID-19 death toll Overnight Health Care: Trump signs largely symbolic pre-existing conditions order amid lawsuit | White House puts off action on surprise medical bills | Rising coronavirus cases spark fears of harsh winter NY health officials to review any vaccine approved by Trump MORE, the government's top infectious disease expert, said Monday that the White House coronavirus task force aggressively lobbied President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act MORE to extend social distancing guidelines another month as the U.S. grapples with the fallout of the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

"We felt that if we prematurely pulled back, we would only form an acceleration or rebound of something, which would put you behind where you were before, and that’s a reason why we argued strongly with the president that he not withdraw those guidelines," Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN's "New Day."

"And he did listen," Fauci added.

Trump announced on Sunday that federal guidelines urging Americans to avoid nonessential travel and in-person gatherings of more than 10 people would be extended until at least the end of April. The announcement marked a significant shift for the president, who had earlier this month floated the idea of reopening the U.S. economy by Easter on April 12. 

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On Monday, Fauci said that health officials pushed for an extension in social distancing restrictions because data indicated that the spread of the disease was not slowing. He cited the surge in hospitalizations in cities like New York and New Orleans and how the outbreak had showed no signs of leveling off. 

"When you look at the kinetics of the outbreak, the patterns that are going on now, even as we speak, they were not going to reach a peak and turnaround the way we wanted to, within the time frame originally estimated," he said, adding that he and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, showed these models to Trump on Sunday at the Oval Office. 

"He looked at them, he understood them, and he shook his head and said, 'I guess we got to do it,'" Fauci continued. 

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Fauci has become one of the public faces of the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak, regularly appearing for interviews about the disease and its implications. He said Sunday that, based on data he's seeing, the U.S. could eventually have millions of confirmed coronavirus cases. 

He also said that the virus could cause 100,000 to 200,000 deaths, noting that projections are subject to change given that the outbreak is "such a moving target." 

The coronavirus, which originated in China in December, has infected more than 732,000 people worldwide, including about 143,000 people in the U.S., according to a Johns Hopkins University database. The disease has caused more than 2,000 deaths in the U.S.