The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says aggressive antibody testing is needed in order to safely reopen the country step by step and that social distancing has saved the United States from a death toll of up to one million.
In an interview with NBC’s Today on Monday, Dr Robert Redfield said that the antibody testing was central to keeping the country open and preventing a second surge of coronavirus cases.
‘We’re going to need to have that aggressively employed as we begin to reopen because again, central to the success of that so we stay open, is to be able to do early case identification, isolation and contact tracing… to basically prevent the opportunity for community transmission to come back into the system,’ he said.
In response to claims the White House and President Donald Trump ignored early warning signs of the outbreak, Dr Refield said the CDC recommended social distancing after the first case of community transmission was reported on February 28.
In an interview with NBC’s Today on Monday, Dr Robert Redfield said that the antibody testing was central to keeping the country open and preventing a second surge of coronavirus cases
‘In January and February, the cases we had were all related to China travel – 14 cases throughout the country,’ Dr Redfield said. ‘It wasn’t until February 28 that we saw our first community transmission. Our initial response was containment.’
He said that after February 28 and into early March the CDC recognized that ‘mitigation was now important’.
‘The CDC sent recommendations to Washington, California, New York and to Florida recommending that they expand mitigation in those areas,’ he said.
The White House didn’t issue social distancing guidelines for the country until three weeks later.
Dr Redfield’s comments came after he was asked whether he agreed with Dr Anthony Fauci’s candid statements on Sunday that American lives could have been saved if the country had shut down sooner during the coronavirus outbreak.
Meanwhile, Dr Redfield said that officials were assessing different parts of the country to see if it was feasible to reopen on May 1 when the current social distancing measures expire.
‘There’s no doubt that we have to reopen correctly. It’s going to be a step-by-step, gradual process. It’s got to be data driven, and as I said I think it will be community by community, county by county,’ he said.
‘We’ve all sacrificed a substantial amount and I do want to thank the American people. The potential mortality of this virus on our nation could have easily been 250,000, 500,000, a million – I think the social distancing that the American people all embraced… led to the mortality rate, sadly still too high, was far less than we anticipated.’
His interview came after Trump retweeted a call to fire Dr Fauci after the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases said lives could have been saved if the country had shut down sooner during the outbreak.
Trump retweeted a message Sunday from a former Republican congressional candidate who cited Dr Fauci’s comments during a television interview on Sunday and tweeted ‘time to #FireFauci.’
Trump in the past has repeated critical tweets of officials or enemies rather than make the criticism himself. The retweet fueled speculation Trump was running out of patience with the popular scientist and could conceivably fire him.
Dr Fauci has assumed national prominence as a leader in the fight against the coronavirus.
He has contradicted or corrected Trump on scientific matters during the crisis, including whether the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is effective against it.
Fauci was asked on CNN’s State of the Union about a New York Times report documenting early warnings issued to the White House about the novel coronavirus.
Trump also claimed that he was ‘criticized for moving too fast when I issued the China Ban, long before most others wanted to do so’
Trump’s (right) apparent dig at Fauci (left) came just hours after the doctor suggested Sunday morning that more lives could have been saved if Trump had initiated a coronavirus shutdown earlier than mid-March
The scientist acknowledged shutting the country down sooner could have saved lives, but cautioned that a number of factors were involved.
‘Obviously, it would have been nice if we had a better head start, but I don’t think you could say that we are where we are right now because of one factor,’ Fauci said.
‘It’s very complicated.’
Already a target of the far-right for his contradictions of Trump, Dr Fauci drew more opprobrium after the comments.
Trump also denounced the New York Times story in several tweets on Sunday, calling it ‘A Fake.’
Last week during the daily White House coronavirus briefing, Trump stepped in and prevented Fauci from answering a question about hydroxychloroquine.
Dr Fauci has led the federal infectious disease agency since 1984 under Republican and Democratic presidents. Republican George W. Bush honored him with the presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008.
Some polls during the public health crisis have shown Americans trust him more than Trump.
Trump says Health Secretary Alex Azar didn’t warn him about coronavirus
President Donald Trump has claimed that US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar did not warn him abut coronavirus until after he had banned planes from China.
In a tweet Sunday night, Trump said ‘I was criticized for moving too fast when I issued the China Ban, long before most others wanted to do so. @SecAzar told me nothing until later’.
Trump imposed the travel ban on January 31.
However, it has been reported that Azar briefed him on January 18 while the President was at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida – but Trump kept interrupting because he was more interested in vaping measures.
The President has now appeared to deny that conversation ever took place.
In a series of tweets Sunday night, the president called out several people, including Dr Anthony Fauci and Azar, two top officials who say they warned Trump about the virus several weeks before his administration put out guidelines for social distancing in mid-March.
The president said that Alex Azar, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services ‘told me nothing until later’
First, Trump slammed The New York Times for a piece published in the newspaper on Saturday claiming the president repeatedly played down the seriousness of the virus and had been warned about the magnitude of the virus multiple times by top White House officials.
He then claimed that Azar told him nothing until after the ban on flights from China.
Word of the virus was included in several of the president’s intelligence briefings, but Trump wasn’t fully briefed on the threat until Azar called with an update on January 18 while the president was at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.
Trump reportedly spent much of the conversation wanting to talk about vaping; he was considering a new policy restricting its use.
At that time the president was also reportedly more concerned about his then-ongoing impeachment trial.
Trump also referred to Navarro in his Sunday night tweet. It was recently revealed that Navarro issued his first grim warning in a memo dated January 29 – just days after the first COVID-19 cases were reported in the US.
The president has previously claimed that he didn’t receive such a memo from Navarro at the time.
In January, Trump was publicly downplaying the risk that the virus posed to Americans – though weeks later he would assert that no one could have predicted the devastation seen today.
Navarro penned a second memo about a month later on February 23, in which he warned that as many as two million Americans could die from the virus as it tightened its grip on the nation.