Fauci: ‘Tough to Say’ if We Advised States to Stay Closed for Too Long, ‘Arguable’ Whether Shutdowns Should Have Been Longer or Shorter

On Friday’s “PBS NewsHour,” White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that “it’s tough to say” if federal guidance to close down for the coronavirus pandemic went on for too long in light of states like Florida that opened up before the federal government recommended and did relatively fine.

Host Judy Woodruff asked, “We’ve heard people say, in particular, that you and others who were in charge of getting the word out to the American people sent the message that we needed to keep things closed for too long and that there were states like Florida that opened up earlier than the federal government was recommending and they did relatively okay. How do you look back on the advice about being closed and for how long?”

Fauci responded, “Well, you always have to evaluate to try and open as quickly as you can, as safely as you can. No one likes to shut down anything, be it general society, the economy, or schools. We all felt strongly that it was a difficult decision. And you want to open up as quickly as you can, as long as you use the shutdown period for a purpose, an endgame. Namely, at the time that the recommendation was made to essentially close down a bit, you might recall the hospitals were being overrun in New York. Remember Elmhurst Hospital, with the cooler trucks out there putting the bodies in. We had to do something. That doesn’t mean you do it indefinitely. You use that time to get hospital beds in better shape, to get more PPE, to get the proper number of ventilators. When you’re in a situation where you have vaccine available, the only time you would want to restrict society is to give you time to get your population vaccinated, which, in fact, is the reason why we believe the Chinese have made somewhat of a mistake in shutting down rigidly, but not, at the same time, vaccinating their entire population, including the elderly.”

Woodruff then asked, “Do you think, here in the United States, though, that the guidance to stay closed down went on too long, that it should have been open sooner?”

Fauci answered, “Judy, it’s tough to say. No doubt that kind of restriction has saved a lot of lives. There’s no argument about that. To say maybe a little bit longer or a little bit shorter, I think that’s arguable. But the idea about shutting down for at least a temporary period of time clearly has saved many, many lives.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett


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