Fauci to warn US Senate that easing virus restrictions will risk lives

WASHINGTON: Leading US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci will warn Congress on Tuesday (May 12) that moving too quickly to ease restrictions on business and social life will put lives at risk from the coronavirus pandemic and hamper the economic recovery, the New York Times reported.

Fauci's hearing before a US Senate committee was due to begin at 10am ET (1400 GMT). The paper said he planned to warn US states not to forge ahead without first meeting administration guidelines for 14 days of declining cases.

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The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci wrote in an email to a Times reporter: "If we skip over the checkpoints … we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country. This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal."

Others testifying include US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn. Each will testify remotely.

Republican President Donald Trump, who previously made the strength of the economy central to his pitch for his November re-election, has encouraged states to reopen businesses that had been deemed non-essential amid the pandemic.

His administration has largely left it to states to decide whether and how to reopen. State governors are taking varying approaches, with a growing number relaxing tough restrictions enacted to slow the outbreak, even as opinion polls show most Americans are concerned about reopening too soon.

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Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, told MSNBC on Monday: "Dr. Fauci will have the opportunity to testify for the first time with Donald Trump not lurking over his shoulder."

Schumer urged Fauci: "Tell us the truth. That's your obligation as an administration official and as an American." Fauci has taken part in White House task force briefings led by Trump, coordinating Washington's response to the coronavirus.

Fauci will appear on Tuesday at the Republican-controlled Senate committee after the White House blocked the 79-year-old infectious disease expert from testifying to a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives panel, calling it "counterproductive."

Fauci, Redfield and Hahn have been taking self-quarantine steps after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus, which causes the highly contagious respiratory disease COVID-19.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander is also self-quarantining in his home state of Tennessee for 14 days after a member of his staff tested positive. Alexander will chair the hearing virtually, his office said on Sunday.

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