Dr. Anthony Fauci, director for the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday that the United States is “not necessarily” on track to face the same catastrophic conditions as Italy, saying a travel restriction instituted in January may have helped curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The number of reported coronavirus cases and resulting deaths in Italy has soared over the past month. In total, over 4,000 people have died and there have been more than 53,000 cases reported.
Fauci said on CBS News’ “Face The Nation” that the State Department restricting flights from China may keep the United States from being put under the same pressure as Italy. Under-resourced, overcrowded hospitals are experiencing triage in the European country, and health care professionals have to prioritize which patients receive care.
But Fauci also acknowledged that the trajectory of coronavirus in the U.S. is “unpredictable.”
“It is conceivable that once you get so many of these spreads ... they spread exponentially and you can never keep up with this tsunami, and I think that’s what unfortunately our colleagues and our dear friends in Italy are facing,” Fauci said.
“I hope and I think it will be the case that we will not be that way because we have from the beginning been able to put a bit of a clamp on it,” he added.
New York City has become the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said hospitals needed several thousand more ventilators to treat ill patients. He has also ordered all nonessential workers in New York to stay home until further notice in order to curb the spread of the virus. State and public health officials in New York have repeatedly called on the Trump administration to use its powers to ramp up the production and purchase of critical medical supplies, but President Donald Trump has reportedly told governors they should get the supplies themselves.
Still, Fauci claimed Sunday, New York is not on the same path as Italy.
“New York is terribly suffering,” he said, “but the kinds of mitigation issues that are going on right now, the things that we’re seeing in this country, this physical separation, at the same time as we’re preventing an influx of cases coming in, I think that’s going to go a long way to preventing us from becoming in Italy.”
After referring to the coronavirus as a “hoax” in February and dismissing its threat to Americans, Trump and his administration have tried to coordinate a belated response. In that time, Fauci has become the administration’s foremost public health authority, frequently appearing in interviews to report data and clarify misinformation.
On Sunday, for example, Fauci had to answer for unproven claims Trump made about two drugs he said would treat coronavirus.
“He’s coming [at] it from a hope, layperson’s standpoint; I’m coming [at] it from a scientific standpoint,” Fauci said.
Clarification: A previous version of this article said nearly 800 people in Italy had died of coronavirus. That was a one-day total. Overall, more than 4,000 people have died in the country.
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