Fauci appeared less optimistic mere minutes later, telling reporters that while “we are starting to see the leveling off and the coming down” of coronvirus-related metrics, Americans must keep up their social-distancing practices.
“This is not the time to feel that since we have made such [an] important advance in the sense of success of the mitigation that we need to be pulling back at all,” Fauci said.
“The virus kind of decides whether or not it’s going to be appropriate to open or not,” he said in a TV interview hours earlier.
Other health officials are stressing the practical hurdles that currently stand in the way of lifting the federal guidelines. For instance, reopening the country would require a “substantial expansion of public health fieldworkers” to help monitor Americans who have come into contact with those who are infected, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday.
More than 600 CDC employees are stationed around the country assisting with coronavirus response efforts, Redfield told NPR, but the agency is “going to have to substantially amplify” that workforce to ramp up contact tracing.
“Obviously, if we’re going to try to get this nation back to work shortly after the end of this month, we’re far along in those planning processes, as we speak,” he said, though he declined to specify how just far along.
State and local officials grappling with the outbreak, who will ultimately be responsible for lifting the restrictions in their areas of responsibility, sounded optimistic notes even as they urged their citizens to stick to them.
Although New York, the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., recorded 777 deaths Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo nonetheless pointed to a rare bright spot at his daily news conference on Friday: The statewide headcount at intensive care units was down 17, the first decline since the outbreak began.
“That means there are fewer people in the intensive care units statewide than there were. And again, that’s the first time we’ve seen a negative number, so that’s good,” Cuomo said. “The three-day average of that is down. A change in intubations is a tick higher than it’s been the last few days, but it’s overall down. The three-day average is also down.”
In New Jersey, where Covid-19-related deaths are expected to eclipse 2,000 over the weekend, Gov. Phil Murphy said that he’s seeing some light at the end of the tunnel as the state navigates its worst public health crisis in more than a century.
Growth of new cases in Bergen County, so far the Garden State’s hardest hit community, has begun to plateau. Evidence suggests the growth curve in new cases is flattening elsewhere as well.
And while the number coronavirus-related hospitalizations continue to climb, the state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said he believes the state’s hospital systems added an adequate number of critical and intensive beds to withstand a surge.
Shortfalls in PPE, health care staff, ventilators and medications continue to bedevil state officials, however. Murphy, who’s traditionally been hesitant to borrow, also on Friday said he’s weighing using his emergency power to take out debt in order to meet the growing costs of the pandemic.
“Everything’s on the table,” Murphy said. “This is a power that we have and this is something we are looking closely at.”
Nick Niedzwiadek and Sam Sutton contributed to this report.