Fauci Warns Going Back To Normal Won't 'Be A Light Switch That You Turn On And Off'

It’s too early to think about life after the pandemic, infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said, urging Americans to continue social distancing.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has cautioned in recent interviews that the coronavirus pandemic will unalterably change aspects of public life. And on Thursday, the nation’s top infectious disease expert again advised Americans not to expect a quick return to anything approaching “normal.”

“When you say ‘get back to normal,’ it’s not going to be a light switch that you turn on and off,” Fauci said on “CBS This Morning.”

Fauci, head of the National Institute on Allergies and Infectious Diseases, said it’s too early to even begin thinking about what life after the pandemic may look like. Even when the risk subsides, the process of how people return to work and school, and resume public gatherings, will likely be different across various states and cities depending on the virus’s spread, he said.

Officials will “progress toward the steps toward normalization as we get closer to the end of the 30 days” of social distancing recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fauci said.

“Hopefully, by the time we get to the summer, we will have taken many steps in that direction,” he said. He added that Americans might be able to make plans for summer events only “if we do the things that we need to do to prevent the resurgence” of the virus.

In China, where COVID-19 cases have tapered off and the government has ended more than two months of lockdown, residents are still under many restrictions to prevent a possible second wave of the pandemic.

U.S. health officials have cautioned against lifting restrictions and relaxing social distancing guidelines too early for the same reason.

“What’s really important is that people don’t turn these early signs of hope into releasing from the 30 days to stop the spread,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Wednesday. “It’s really critical.”

If people let their guard down and become more lax in abiding by social distancing rules, “a very acute second wave” of infections may erupt, Birx said.

Fauci, like Birx and other officials, said it’s vital to maintain social distancing and other containment measures. Only then will the U.S. continue seeing positive signs, such as models showing a decrease in the number of Americans projected to die and early indications that the curve of infections may be flattening in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S.

“That’s good news, but the thing we have to be careful of is that we don’t then take that good news to think that we might be able to pull back a bit,” Fauci said Thursday. “We’ve got to continue, in many respects, to redouble our efforts at the mitigation of physical separation in order to keep those numbers down, and hopefully even get them lower.”

In another interview on NBC’s “Today,” Fauci expressed hope that the pandemic has reached a turning point.

“We are hoping, with cautious optimism, that at the same time we’re in for a bad week, we’re going to start to see a turnaround,” he said. “I think it will.”

When asked if the stabilization of the rate of hospitalizations in New York indicates that the curve is flattening, Fauci said: “We’re looking at the very beginning of that.” 

While New York’s numbers have remained steady for a few days, they need to continue to do so in order to indicate a clear pattern, he said.

Government officials have been hoping to make antibody tests available for people who have recovered from COVID-19 or may have been asymptomatic carriers. If they test negative, it could mean they would be able to return to work.

Fauci said companies producing the tests say they’ll be available in “days to weeks.” The availability of a large number of tests, he said, could facilitate a possible reopening of the economy and return to public life. 

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus