The top US infectious disease expert warned on Friday that even though hard-hit spots like New York are showing positive results in the battle against the coronavirus, it is too early to relax restrictions on Americans.
The warning from Dr. Anthony Fauci came as President Donald Trump administration's top economic officials said on Thursday they believe the US economy could start to reopen for normal business in May, despite health experts' urging to continue social distancing to defeat the coronavirus.
Trump, a Republican seeking re-election on Nov. 3, has made clear he wants to get the economy going as soon as possible.
"Hopefully we're going to be opening up... very, very, very, very soon, I hope,” he said on Thursday at the White House's daily coronavirus briefing.
Fauci warned against relaxing restrictions too soon.
"What we're seeing right now are some favorable signs," Fauci said in an interview on CNN, citing progress in hard-hit New York.
Before moving to reopen society, he added: "We would want to see a clear indication that you were very, very clearly and strongly going in the right direction. Because the one thing you don't want to do is you don't want to get out there prematurely and you wind up back in the same situation."
In New York, authorities said on Thursday the number of newly hospitalized patients in dropped for a second day, to 200, even though the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the state rose by 799 on Wednesday.
"You can't relax," Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
With many Americans celebrating the Easter holiday on Sunday, Fauci said it was important to keep social distancing measures in place.
"Now is no time to back off," Fauci said.
Members of the coronavirus task force look at data every day for indications "we can go forward in a gradual way to essentially reopening the country," Fauci said, and report back to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. "That decision will be made at that level," he said.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi also warned Trump against prematurely trying to get back to normal.
"I would hope that the scientific community would weigh in and say, ‘You can’t do this, it is only going to make matters worse if you go out too soon,’” Pelosi said in an interview with Politico late on Thursday.