New York, May 13 : Americas top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci cautioned on Tuesday that it would be a "bridge too far" to think that COVID19 treatment or vaccines would be ready in time for the Fall 2020 reopening of schools, urged everyone to be extremely careful with children and warned of "really serious" consequences if states lift stay-at-home orders too quickly, even as President Donald Trump pushes them to act against the backdrop of a free-falling economy.
Fauci, who is self-quarantining after a White House staffer tested positive for the virus, is one among four health experts who testified remotely to a Senate panel.
Besides Fauci, the other experts included FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- both in self-quarantine -- and Adm.
Brett Giroir, from the Department of Health and Human Services.
"The idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate the reentry of students into the full term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far," Fauci said.
He explained that the drugs that have shown efficacy so far have been used on hospitalised patients and are not even close to being used as prophylaxis or treatment for students.
"Even at the top speed we're going, we don't see a vaccine, playing to the ability of individuals to get back to school, this term," Fauci said, putting an official stamp on the likely medical state of play this September.
Fauci urged Americans to "better be very careful particularly when it comes to children" because this cohort is now presenting with inflammatory symptoms very similar to Kawasaki Syndrome.
At this time, a total of 52 children in New York City have been diagnosed with an inflammatory syndrome possibly linked to COVID-19 and another 10 cases are pending, according to the latest official data.
Of those 62 confirmed or possible cases, 25 have tested positive for the coronavirus and another 22 had antibodies for the virus.
Under attack from a Senator who said Fauci isn't the "end all" and that the US should go the Sweden way and open up schools, Fauci's response hinged on the theme that the world's best doctors still don't know enough about the virus.
That, he said, should make us all even more careful with young populations.
Fauci's comments riffed on his own most repeated lines from White House briefings over the last two months.
"There is no doubt", he said, "even under the best of circumstances, when you pull back on mitigation, you will see some cases appear."
"And if there is a rush to reopen without following guidelines, my concern is we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks." The consequences could be "really serious", he said.
The prospect of the COVID19 outbreak becoming worse in the fall "does exist", according to Fauci.
Responding to a question from Senator Elizabeth Warren, Fauci said America does not have COVID19 completely under control.
"I think we're going in the right direction but the right direction does not mean we have by any means total control of this outbreak", Fauci clarified.
"At least eight candidate COVID-19 vaccines are in clinical development", Fauci said during his opening remarks.
Fauci is a crucial member of the White House coronavirus task force leading America's response to COVID-19, which has killed more than 80,000 people in the US.
Fauci is warning Congress that reopening the economy too soon during the pandemic will result in "needless suffering and death." He urged states to "go by the guidelines", referring to the detailed rubric put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) but reportedly shelved by the White House.
More than 30 states have had a 14-day downward trajectory of either cases or positive test rates and 25 are partially opened or moving to reopen very soon.
America leads the world in coronavirus caseload. More than 1.3 million Americans have been sickened by the virus since the first reported case in January on the country's west coast.
(Nikhila Natarajan on Twitter @byniknat)