POLITICS

Top U.S. Health Official: Americans Should 'Hunker Down Significantly More'

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci called for a "dramatic diminution" in personal interactions at bars and restaurants as the coronavirus continues to spread.

Anthony Fauci, one of the top U.S. health officials leading the country’s response to the coronavirus, urged Americans on Sunday to “hunker down significantly more” as the virus continues to spread across the country.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, while making the rounds on Sunday morning political shows, called on a “dramatic diminution” in personal interactions at restaurants and bars.

“Whatever it takes to do that, that’s what I’d like to see,” Fauci, a medical doctor, said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that elderly and immunocompromised individuals are not the only people at risk.

“Younger people should be concerned for two reasons: You are not immune or safe from getting seriously ill,” he said. “So protect yourself. But remember: You could also be a vector or a carrier. ... That’s why everybody’s got to take this seriously.”

Earlier Sunday, Fauci told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he would prefer the U.S. be “overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting” rather than see the spread of the virus continue to jump.

“I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing,” he said.

“Everybody has got to get involved in distancing themselves socially,” he added. “If you are in an area where there is clearer community spread, you have to be much, much more intense about how you do that.”

Fauci stopped short of calling for an outright national shutdown similar to what has been implemented in Italy, France and Spain, but said he has made his opinion on the matter known to the Trump administration. He denied that the administration has pushed back on his suggestions.

There have been over 152,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus across the world and more than 5,700 deaths. In the U.S., there have been more than 1,600 confirmed cases with at least 41 deaths. Those numbers were expected to jump as access to testing increases over the next few weeks.

Though some Americans have heeded the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are practicing social distancing, as evidenced by how stocking up on supplies has led to empty shelves in grocery stores across the country, others have decided not to scale back their interactions with others.

“What we should be doing is absolutely making it much, much more different ― not business as usual,” Fauci told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, adding that Americans should “slow down” their social interactions.

“We got to make sure that the vulnerable ones are the ones we protect,” he continued. Most people should consider staying home and avoiding public places like movie theaters and restaurants, but especially the elderly and those with underlying conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, he said.

Fauci said it could take “several weeks to a few months” for life to return to “normal” across the country.

Fauci has been thrust into the national spotlight in recent weeks amid the global spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus first documented in China. He has spoken alongside President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who is heading the White House’s coronavirus task force, at news conferences about the virus.

Fauci has, at times, had to publicly correct misinformation spread by Trump, including the timeline of the creation of a possible vaccine. The president has said it could be ready in a couple of months. In fact, according to Fauci, a vaccine likely wouldn’t be available for at least a year.  

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