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Fauci: 'We're not there yet' on system to safely reopen economy

Fauci: 'We're not there yet' on system to safely reopen economy
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Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as White House continues to push vaccination effort Biden confronts limits of big government with COVID-19 Watch live: White House holds briefing with COVID-19 response team MORE on Tuesday said that the country does not yet have the system it needs in place to be able to start reopening the economy safely. 

Experts say that in order to ease up on blunt measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic like stay-at-home orders, the United States needs to have a much higher testing capacity and the ability to trace who infected people have been in contact with so they can be isolated as well. 

Those capabilities are not fully in place yet, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday.

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“We have to have something in place that is efficient and that we can rely on, and we’re not there yet,” he said. 

The comments are a note of caution as President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Memo: The Obamas unbound, on race Iran says onus is on US to rejoin nuclear deal on third anniversary of withdrawal Assaults on Roe v Wade increasing MORE has continued to express his eagerness to start reopening the economy.

Fauci told the AP that a May 1 target would be “a bit overly optimistic” and any opening would have to be on a “rolling” basis, with different parts of the country reopening at different times.  

Experts say the country will need millions of tests per week to be able to safely reopen the country. But in the last week, the U.S. performed about 860,000 tests, according to the COVID Tracking Project. That is an improvement over the initial testing struggles, but still not enough, experts say. 

There is also a need to have “contact tracers,” health workers who can track down people who infected people have been in contact with so they can isolate themselves as well. That effort requires significantly higher staffing levels.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield told NPR last week that his agency is working on increasing this staffing, but declined to discuss details of the planning.

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"Obviously, if we're going to try to get this nation back to work shortly after the end of this month, we're far along in those planning processes as we speak," he said.

Fauci also warned of a resurgence if things open back up too soon; that means easing social distancing needs to be done carefully.

“I’ll guarantee you, once you start pulling back there will be infections. It’s how you deal with the infections that’s going count,” Fauci told the AP.