Anthony Fauci warns of ‘irreparable damage’ if lockdowns are kept in place for too long

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a CNBC interview on Friday that extended lockdowns could cause “irreparable damage.”
  • “We can’t stay locked down for such a considerable period of time that you might do irreparable damage and have unintended consequences, including consequences for health,” Fauci said.
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the Senate earlier this week that there was a risk of “permanent damage” to the economy if states kept strict restrictions in place.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said on Friday that extended lockdowns could cause “irreparable” harm and worse health outcomes.

“We can’t stay locked down for such a considerable period of time that you might do irreparable damage and have unintended consequences, including consequences for health,” Fauci said in a CNBC interview.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the measures were necessary early on to curb the explosive spread of the coronavirus. But he supported states taking cautious steps to restore normality and lift stay-at-home orders.

“Now is the time, depending upon where you are and what your situation is, is to begin seriously looking at reopening the economy, reopening the country to try and get back to some degree of normal,” he said.

Fauci’s remarks echoed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s earlier this week. During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Mnuchin said there was a “risk of permanent damage” if states delayed reopening their economies, The New York Times reported.

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Earlier this month, Fauci said that trying to reopen the US too soon would result in “needless suffering and death” from a new wave of coronavirus infections. The virus has already killed at least 95,000 people across the country.

The number of new coronavirus infections reported in the US each day over the past week has ranged from 18,000 to 26,000, per a Times database. The Trump administration has strongly supported efforts to reopen the economy, arguing that it’s critical to send Americans back to work to mitigate the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Last month, the economy shed 20 million jobs, according to data from the Labor Department. It prompted the unemployment rate to skyrocket to 14.7%, the highest level since the Great Depression.

All 50 states are reopening in some way since wide swaths of the US started lockdowns two months ago. But Fauci said they should keep social-distancing guidelines in place to curb the spread of the virus.

“In general, I think most of the country is doing it in a prudent way,” he said on CNBC. “There are obviously some situations where people might be jumping over that. I just say please proceed with caution if you’re going to do that.”

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On Friday, President Donald Trump said he was designating churches, synagogues, and mosques to be “essential” and ordered governors to reopen houses of worship “right now.” However, he likely does not have clear authority to do so.