US immunologist warns against hasty return to business as usual

Dr Anthony Fauci urges caution as Trump suggests economy could reopen soon

The top immunologist in the United States warned against prematurely reopening the US economy on Sunday as the country 's death toll from coronavirus surpassed that of Italy.

More than 20,000 people have now died from Covid-19 in the United States, with more than 530,000 cases reported across the country. This compares with a death toll of 19,500 in Italy.

Speaking on Sunday, Dr Anthony Fauci, who is leading the country's response to the pandemic, said it was possible that the US could start to reopen "maybe next month". But he warned that a premature reopening of the entire country would lead to "an extraordinary risk of there being a rebound".

“It is not going to be a light switch,” he said on CNN. “It is going to be depending where you are in the country, the nature of the outbreak you’ve already experienced, and the threat of an outbreak that you may not have experienced . . . I think it’s going to have to be something that is not one size fits all.”


His comments follow a suggestion by the Trump administration that the economy could start to reopen on May 1st. President Donald Trump has predicted that the economy will restart "sooner rather than later" but said he would be guided by the health experts. Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin said last week that he believed the economy could start reopening on May 1st.

More than 90 per cent of the American population is under some form of stay-at-home order, with businesses and schools shut across the country as coronavirus spreads. Unemployment figures last week revealed that 17 million Americans had filed for unemployment benefits for the first time in the four weeks to April 4th.

New York deaths

New York, which continues to be the epicentre of the crisis, reported 758 more deaths on Sunday. Governor Andrew Cuomo said, "758 people lost their lives in a 24-hour period. Everyone is a face and a name and a family that is suffering on this weekend."

However, he noted that the number of deaths appeared to be flattening in recent days.

On the question of when New York would reopen, Mr Cuomo said: “The answer is we want to reopen as soon as possible . . . We need to be smart in the way we reopen. We need a co-ordinated approach, a regional approach and a safe approach.”

He continued: “The last thing we want to see is an uptick in that infection rate”, stressing that he would work on a plan with the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut, given the close relationship between the three states.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump spent Easter Sunday at the White House, from where he issued a presidential message.

"Melania and I join millions of Christians celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of eternal life this Easter. Although this year's observance of Easter comes during a sombre time for our nation, we hope all of you are filled with the joy, love and hope that marks this holiest of days."

The first lady tweeted a video of her reading the children’s story The Little Rabbit, after the traditional Easter egg roll at the White House was cancelled.

The president previously forecast there would be “packed churches all over the country” by Easter Sunday, predicting that the threat of coronavirus would have receded. Instead the United States has recorded the highest number of cases in the world.

Mr Trump tweeted that he planned to tune in to a live Easter broadcast from Dr Robert Jeffress, a Dallas-based Baptist pastor who is a strong supporter of the president and a regular Fox News contributor.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent