“Top US Disease Expert Backs Nationwide Lockdown
By VOA News
Updated March 15, 2020 08:30 PM
The United States’ top infectious disease expert says he would favor a national lockdown to stop further spread of the coronavirus — the same kind of drastic step some hard-hit countries have taken.
Chief of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CNN Sunday he would like to see a “dramatic diminution of the personal interaction that we see” in such places as restaurants and bars, encouraging people to stay home.
“We need to be very serious about this, for a while. Life is not going to be the way it used to be in the United States. We just have to accept that if we want to do what’s best for the American public,” Fauci said.
Fauci later said at the White House that the “worst is ahead” even after U.S. President Donald Trump said moments earlier that his government has “total control” over the virus.
Many U.S. states have shut down schools, banned large gatherings, and closed theaters. College and major league sports have come to a complete halt and theme parks, including Disneyland and Disney World, are turning away visitors.
New York City, the nation’s largest public school system with more than 1 million students, will close Monday — a decision Mayor Bill de Blasio says he took “with no joy and a lot of pain.”
Some New York officials want the mayor to order bars and restaurants closed, noting that many eateries were packed as usual on Saturday night.
California Gov. Gavin Newsome has strongly urged bars and restaurants to close.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker ordered such establishments in his state to keep their doors locked for two weeks starting Monday.
The new coronavirus is an unusually contagious disease of which doctors still have many unanswered questions.
Vice President Mike Pence, the head so the White House virus task force, says new federal guidelines on so-called “social distancing,” will be announced Monday.
So far, all decisions to close down attractions, schools, and businesses have come from local officials. Unlike many coronavirus-stricken nations, such as Italy and China, there have been no federal declarations to close anything or place cities under a lockdown.
Trump made a brief appearance at the White House press room Sunday afternoon, telling people there is no need to hoard food and supplies.
“Take it easy, just relax,” Trump said after telephone calls with the heads of major U.S. supermarket chains. Shoppers are finding store shelves cleaned out of staple foods, hand sanitizers, and toilet paper.
Trump said the store executives assured him that are working 24 hours a day to keep shelves full.
Trump also congratulated the Federal Reserve for slashing its benchmark interest rate — the rate it charges banks — to near zero Sunday. The move is aimed at helping the battered economy withstand the coronavirus pandemic, no matter how long it lasts. The Fed will also buy up $750 billion in Treasury and mortgage-backed securities. These moves are expected to pump hundreds of billions of dollars in the economy.
Meanwhile, more nations around the globe are taking steps to try to contain the coronavirus.
Slovenia is grounding all flights starting Tuesday and closing down nearly all non-essential businesses.
Spain and Portugal are closing its shared border to tourism, but not to commerce. Serbia plans to declare a state of emergency Monday while Montenegro, which has no cases so far, is doing what it can to make sure things stay that way. No foreign visitors are allowed and stores, restaurants, and playgrounds are closed.
Ireland, where pubs are a way of life, has ordered all such inns closed for two weeks. Bartenders said they had a hard time keeping people the recommended social distancing of 1.8 meters apart.
Pope Francis waved his arm in blessing from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square Sunday — but there was no one there to receive it. All of Italy is on lockdown.
But many in Brazil ignored President Jair Bolsonaro’s appeal not to form crowds and turned out for a pro-government march Sunday in Brasilia.
Bolsonaro, who has tested negative for the coronavirus, apparently gave up and decided to join the rally, shaking hands with the demonstrators and posing for pictures – clearly ignoring the social distancing recommendations.
As of Sunday night, there were more than 169,000 coronavirus cases worldwide and nearly 6,500 deaths.
Dr. Fauci is a lifelong health professional, rather than a pharma-biotech exec like some of Trump’s advisors. His father was even a pharmacist. The PM of Ireland is a medical doctor and his mother was a nurse and father an MD, plus he is advised by a medical professional. Slovenia is one of the country’s doing the most testing.