Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, expressed dismay over recent scenes of Americans fleeing Europe en masse, creating significant crowds at airports during a time when people are encouraged to engage in social separation to avoid spreading coronavirus.
Fauci made clear that the recent travel ban from Europe does not apply to Americans, and that people do not need to rush back to the U.S. all at once.
“What people need to understand, if you’re an American citizen if you are a family member, that you can get back," he told "Fox News Sunday," making clear that people do not need to return to the U.S. immediately. "But it’s understandable when people see a travel ban they immediately want to hunker and get home. Hopefully we won’t see more of that but I think we probably unfortunately will see that.”
During an appearance Sunday on CNN, Fauci did not rule out his support for a temporary national lockdown of restaurants and bars. He said said he'd "like to see a dramatic diminution of the personal interaction that we see" in social gathering spots.
"Whatever it takes to do that, that's what I'd like to see," Fauci told Brianna Keilar on "State of the Union."
Fauci told Wallace that he did not think a national lockdown, similar to Italy's, would be necessary for the United States, and also discussed three reasons why coronavirus is different from other ailments like the flu.
“One, it’s brand new so we don’t have any prior experience about what it’s gonna do, what it’s dynamic’s gonna be,” he said. “Number 2, it spreads very easily, there’s no doubt about that. It isn’t like some of the other outbreaks that we had that just didn’t adapt itself to spread among humans. And Number 3, it’s very serious in the sense of morbidity and mortality, particularly among – and very heavily weighted -- towards individuals who are more susceptible – the elderly and those with underlying conditions.”
When asked if its contagiousness and lethality are worse than the flu, Fauci emphatically said, “Well yes, I mean it just is, and we’ve gotta face that fact.”
Fauci also repeated his prediction that things “will get worse before they get better.” He remained optimistic that the impact can be mitigated, but only if people take precautions.
“To think that right now everything is going to be okay if we don’t do anything, that’s absolutely incorrect,” he said.
Fauci also said that a national lockdown like what has taken place in Italy will likely not be necessary in the U.S.
"We feel that with rather stringent mitigation and containment without necessarily complete lockdown we’d be able to prevent ourselves from getting to where, unfortunately, Italy is now," he said. Fauci also noted that domestic travel bans have “not been seriously considered.”
One issue that Americans have faced is the difficulty in getting tested. Fauci did not pull any punches during a House Oversight Committee hearing Thursday, in which he acknowledged the government’s “failing” when it comes to being equipped for large-scale testing, but Friday told Fox News there will be a “major escalation” now that the private sector is getting involved.
He reiterated that optimism on Sunday, saying that with the involvement of private companies, in the next week it appears that even if some Americans are still not able to get tested, “the totality of the picture is going to be infinitely better than it was a few weeks ago.”