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Fauci says hard-hit states should be 'pausing' the reopening process

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge US COVID-19 cases reach past 13 million Fauci: Pandemic likely won't improve by Christmas, New Year's MORE, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said Thursday that hard-hit states should not be moving forward with reopening, but stopped short of calling for full shutdowns.

"I would think we need to get the states pausing in their opening process, looking at what did not work well and try to mitigate that," Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told The Hill's Steve Clemons. "I don't think we need to go back to an extreme of shutting down."

Fauci struck a different note than he did a day earlier in an interview with The Wall Street Journal when he said states should consider shutdowns.

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"I think any state that is having a serious problem, that state should seriously look at shutting down," he said Wednesday. "It's not for me to say because each state is different."

On Thursday, though, he softened his remarks, saying, "I would hope we don't have to resort to shutdown."

He added that shutdowns "would not be viewed very favorably."

Speaking at an event hosted by The Hill and sponsored by the Biosimilars Forum, he said hard-hit states should take steps like closing bars, which many have done in recent days, and avoiding large gatherings.

He pointed to California, Arizona, Texas and Florida as accounting for 50 percent of new infections.

"We've got to get them to do very fundamental things," Fauci said. "Closing bars, avoiding congregations of large numbers of people, getting the citizenry in those states to wear masks, maintain six foot distance, [and washing hands]."

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"If we can do that consistently, I would tell you almost certainly you're going to see a downturn in those infections," he added.

As new cases have spiked to around 60,000 per day in the United States, Fauci had a somber assessment.

"We've been hit harder than any country in the world," he said.

In contrast, President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE has continued to downplay the worsening outbreak, tweeting on Thursday that the new cases are simply the result of more testing, despite experts widely saying that is not true. Experts point out that the percentage of tests that come back positive is rising as are hospitalizations in key states, signs that the outbreak cannot be blamed solely on more testing.

Trump also earlier encouraged states to quickly reopen their economies.

Fauci said Thursday that some Southern states now being hit hard reopened too soon, and not in accordance with the benchmarks in the White House guidelines.

"What we've seen, unfortunately, is that in some of the southern states, the states have not really followed those guidelines in some respects and jumped over the benchmarks," Fauci said.

--Updated at 11:50 a.m.