What It Will Take for America to Reopen Its Economy
“We better be really careful as we move forward,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Taskforce, speaking with TIME senior health correspondent Alice Park today as part of the new TIME 100 Talks: Finding Hope series. Fauci addressed questions ranging from testing capabilities in the U.S. to President Donald Trump’s infamous #FireFauci retweet. He also discussed what it will take for the U.S. to reopen its economy.
It’s not like turning on a light switch, he said. Though the U.S. faces record unemployment as schools are shut down and people nationwide practice social distancing and isolation, the journey back to normalcy can’t be rushed. Not all parts of the country may be returning to pre-COVID-19 activities at the same time, or in the same way, he said. As some locations start loosening social distancing guidelines, cases of COVID-19 will return, Fauci guaranteed. When that happens, officials must have the capability to – identify cases, – “isolate them, – contact-trace people they have been in touch with, -and get people out of circulation who are infected,”
Fauci said. “If we are capable of doing that effectively, then we should feel some good confidence that we could slowly move on. This is a very critical time right now.”
Over the course of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., Fauci has become the “scientific soul of the U.S. coronavirus response,” Park writes. In their discussion today, Fauci told Park—with palpable relief—that he is not going to be fired. “As [Trump] said publicly when he was asked about it, that’s not even on the table,” Fauci said. “My job always is, and I’ve always done it and will continue to do it, is to give advice on the basis of evidence and science.”
More than 2.6 million people worldwide had been sickened by COVID-19 as of 8 PM eastern time on Wednesday, April 22, and more than 183,000 had died.
Here is every country with over 20,000 confirmed cases, as of Wednesday 8 PM eastern time:
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 43% increase of positive COVID-19 cases in the past week across the continent, while also noting that testing capacity is limited and strained, so the real case count is likely higher. The continent now has more than 26,000 reported cases, with the highest concentrations in South Africa, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt.
China has decided to donate an additional $30 million to the World Health Organization (WHO), according to a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The announcement comes after the U.S. announced it was pulling its funding to the WHO while it investigates early mismanagement.
China has also started to restrict movement in northern parts of the country, where new cases of COVID-19 have been reported.
European countries are likely to face unprecedented recessions,the AP reports. European Union leaders met virtually today to discuss a financial aid package worth 540 billion euros that would fund wages, health care systems and support companies, according to the AP.
The Situation in the United States
More than 839,000 people in the U.S. had contracted COVID-19 as of 8 PM eastern time on Wednesday, April 22, and more than 46,500 had died from it.
This afternoon, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in his daily COVID-19 briefing, reported the results of a recent study in which 3,000 New Yorkers across 19 counties were randomly tested for the virus. Nearly 14% of these people had signs of COVID-19—a significantly higher case rate than has been confirmed in the state, by far the hardest hit in the U.S.
The New York Times today also reported on research out of Northeastern University in Boston, which found that COVID-19 was spreading completely undetectedearlier in many major U.S. cities before testing revealed an outbreak. As of March 1, there were only about 20 cases diagnosed in Boston, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco and New York City, but models by the Northeastern researchers suggest there could have actually been about 28,000 cases in those cities by then.
Much of the national conversation in the last few days has focused on reopening state economies across the country. The U.S. government announced this morning that an additional 4.4 million people applied for unemployment benefits in the last week. That means unemployment in the U.S. has now reached 26 million. When the final accounting is done, the total share of Americans to file for unemployment for the month of April could reach 20%, according to the Associated Press, citing economists.
During a press briefing at the White House yesterday afternoon, President Donald Trump said he disagreed with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s decision to begin reopening some of the state’s businesses, including salons and tattoo parlors, but that ultimately, the decision to reopen rests with Kemp. “He must do what he thinks is right, but I disagree with him on what he’s doing,” Trump said. “It’s too soon, I think it’s too soon.”
In a radio interview yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested states file for bankruptcy rather than take a bailout, a suggestion that has been met with criticism on both sides of the aisle. Republican Governor Larry Hogan, chair of the National Governors Association, told The Washington Post McConnell would likely “regret” his comments.
Debate on the House floor began this morning on a $484 billion relief package for small businesses, hospitals and to aid in testing, and a vote is anticipated by this afternoon. The bill is expected to pass.
All numbers are from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering, and are accurate as of April 22, 8 PM eastern time. To see larger, interactive versions of these maps and charts, click here.