Fauci warns protests will 'backfire,' slow economic recovery

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciWhite House looks to make 'we need to live with it' the new tone on coronavirus: report Rand Paul's exchange with Fauci was exactly what America needed Ex-CIA director Panetta: Trump has 'essentially gone AWOL' amid pandemic MORE, the top government official on infectious diseases, warned Monday that protests in opposition to governors' stay-at-home orders meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus will "backfire" and further delay the reopening of the economy.

"Clearly this is something that is hurting from the standpoint of economics and 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 "Good Morning America."

"So what you do if you jump the gun and go into a situation where you have a big spike, you’re going to set yourself back," he said. "So as painful as it is to go by the careful guidelines of gradually phasing into a reopening, it’s going to backfire. That’s the problem."

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Protests have been popping up around the country over the last several days in Minnesota, Colorado, Michigan, Texas and other states. 

In Harrisburg, Pa., on Monday, a crowd estimated by some reporters to be more than 1,000 people gathered at the state capitol to protest social distancing policies that have closed businesses. 

Many of the protestors have argued that the policies are causing too much harm to the economy. 

But the majority of public health experts say it could cause more economic harm if the restrictions were lifted too quickly and a new wave of infections was caused. 

Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, pushed back on the protests after President TrumpDonald John Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' MORE signaled his support for those gathering by the hundreds in states across the country.

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The president on Friday threw his support behind protesters in Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia who held demonstrations to oppose stay-at-home orders and other restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus, calling to “liberate” those states. All three are run by Democratic governors.

In the days since, Trump has continued to approve of the protests even as they flout his own administration's guidelines to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people and remain six feet apart from others.

"As far as protesters, you know, I see protesters for all sorts of things," Trump said Sunday. "And I’m with everybody. I'm with everybody."

Trump said he believes some governors have "gone too far," even as others in the administration repeatedly urge Americans to heed the advice of their state and local leaders.

The president cited Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), a potential Democratic vice presidential candidate, and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who recently signed stronger gun laws, as two leaders who he felt had done too much.

The administration last week rolled out guidance for reopening the economy over the course of three phases. The plan calls for governors to make the final decision on when to move to each phase based on the circumstances in their states or each county.

Polls have suggested strong support for restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus. In a CAPS/Harris poll released on Monday, 75 percent said a full shutdown of the U.S. had been necessary.