Fauci warns of 'really serious' consequences if nation reopens too quickly

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciNorth Carolina couple married 50 years dies minutes apart of coronavirus holding hands As virus pummels US, Europe sees its own spike Democratic chairman says White House blocked FDA commissioner from testifying MORE in a highly anticipated hearing on Tuesday warned the Senate Health Committee of "really serious" consequences if states ignore federal guidelines and reopen too early during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the danger of new spikes of coronavirus cases from reopening is both real and dangerous.

“My concern is that if some areas, city, states or what have you, jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” Fauci said during virtual testimony from his home in Washington.

“The consequences could be really serious,” said Fauci, who is self-isolating after being in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case at the White House. 

He added that this is also the case in states that are moving at an “appropriate pace” in reopening as well.

“Even under the best of circumstances, when you pull back on mitigation, you will see some cases appear. It's the ability and the capability of responding to those cases with good identification, isolation and contact tracing will determine whether you can continue to go forward, as you try to reopen America.”

Experts say far more testing and contact tracing capacity is needed before the country can safely reopen. Testing availability varies dramatically from state to state, and some public health departments are still hiring and training workers who will trace contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases and link them to testing.

Fauci's comments at the hearing, which was carried live by cable television networks, comes as the White House has pressed states to reopen their economies. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden leads Trump by 36 points nationally among Latinos: poll Trump dismisses climate change role in fires, says Newsom needs to manage forest better Jimmy Kimmel hits Trump for rallies while hosting Emmy Awards MORE has also criticized some states for not doing more to reopen. 

"The great people of Pennsylvania want their freedom now, and they are fully aware of what that entails," Trump tweeted on Monday. "The Democrats are moving slowly, all over the USA, for political purposes. They would wait until November 3rd if it were up to them."

"Don’t play politics. Be safe, move quickly!" he concluded.

The debate over reopening comes months before a presidential election expected to hinge on the administration's response to the pandemic and the economic crisis it has caused. 

Unemployment jumped to 14.7 percent in a report last week and is expected to grow higher, raising pressure on the administration and Trump.

More than 1.3 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the U.S., leading to nearly 81,000 deaths.

Most states have reopened in some capacity, creating a political divide as Republican governors have tended to lift restrictions faster than states led by Democrats. Several states have begun reopening without first experiencing a 14-day downward trajectory in COVID-19 cases or a decline in the percentage of positive tests, recommendations laid out in the administration's guidelines for reopening.

"There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak," Fauci said of ignoring those guidelines.

"You might not be able to control it, which in fact, paradoxically, will set you back, not only leading to some suffering and death [that] could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to try to get economic recovery."

Updated at 12:12 p.m.