Fauci on shutting down coronavirus epicenters: 'Anything's possible'

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday that he doubted the U.S. would have to impose measures as “draconian” as total shutdowns ordered in some regions in northern Italy to halt the spread of coronavirus, but said “anything is possible.”

“We have to be realistic. I don’t think it would be as draconian as nobody in or nobody out. But if we continue to get cases like this, particularly at the community level, there will be what we call 'mitigation,' where we have to essentially do social distancing, keep people out of crowded places, take a look at seriousness, do you really need to travel, and I think it’s particularly important among the most vulnerable,” Fauci said on “Fox News Sunday.”

"You don’t want to alarm people, but given the spread we’ve seen anything is possible and that’s why we’ve got to be prepared to take whatever action is appropriate to contain and mitigate the outbreak," he added.

Fauci also addressed reports that health experts on the White House’s coronavirus task force had been overruled on the recommendation that elderly people refrain from air travel.

“Here’s the deal- no one overruled anybody about saying this so let me say it loud and clear now,” Fauci said. “Right now I’m telling the American people based on everything that’s agreed upon in the task force if you are an individual with an underlying condition, particularly an elderly person with an underlying condition, you should start to distance yourself from the risk and above all don’t get on a cruise ship.”

He also addressed the specific case of the Grand Princess cruise ship, which will dock in the port of Oakland after being turned away from San Francisco.

“I recommended very strongly in our meetings that we get those people off that ship, we don’t want to have a repeat of what we saw at the Diamond Princess [in the port of Yokohama] where the ship became almost a hotspot of transmission, I feel strongly about getting them off there,” Fauci said.

Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Fauci emphasized the risk to elderly and otherwise vulnerable people, telling host Chuck ToddCharles (Chuck) David ToddSunday shows - Trump team defends coronavirus response Strzok: 'I continue to believe that Donald Trump is compromised by the Russians' GOP chair defends Trump messaging on masks: 'To say that he should have known then what we know now isn't really fair' MORE, "I think right now something that’s important that I hope the American people appreciate is that the risk of getting into trouble with this infection is overwhelmingly weighted towards people with underlying conditions and the elderly.

"You don’t want to go to a massive gathering, particularly if you’re a vulnerable person," he added.

--This report was updated at 11:03 a.m.