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‘The virus makes the timeline’: Dr. Fauci doubts Trump’s Easter coronavirus target

It’s way too early for U.S. President Donald Trump to talk about ending coronavirus lockdowns by Easter, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s top expert and de facto fact-checker on the pandemic.

Fauci, a veteran infectious disease specialist on the U.S. coronavirus task force, seemed to throw cold water on Trump’s plans to send everyone back to work by April 12 during an interview with CNN on Wednesday.

“You don’t make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline,” Fauci said. He spoke to CNN a day after Trump talked about ending the lockdowns in order to save the plunging stock market, which the president has often linked to his re-election chances.

“I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” Trump said during a Fox News virtual town hall on Tuesday. The president also suggested that the U.S. would see “suicides by the thousands” if the economy didn’t go back to normal.

“You’ve got to be realistic,” Fauci told CNN on Wednesday night. “You’ve got to respond in what you see happen, and if you keep seeing this acceleration, it doesn’t matter what you say. One week, two weeks, three weeks — you’ve got to go with what the situation on the ground is.”

When asked about the Easter goal at a briefing on Tuesday, both Trump and Fauci said a “flexible” approach was necessary. They also noted that it wouldn’t make sense to lift the restrictions everywhere, since some areas would still require lockdowns.

“I will be guided very much by Dr. Fauci and … the other professionals,” Trump said.

“The country is a big country and there are areas of the country … that we really need to know more about what the penetrance is there,” Fauci said.

The U.S. currently has the third-most recorded cases of the COVID-19 disease in the world, although failures in testing have made it impossible for health officials to fully understand the scope of the infections.

The outbreak has hit New York the hardest, with more than 30,000 confirmed cases, 285 deaths and approximately 3,800 people in hospital in the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday. New York City’s morgues are at capacity and a new facility is being built to deal with an expected spike in deaths.

The U.S. is in the second week of a sweeping 15-day lockdown meant to slow the spread of the virus. However, those efforts will not stop the virus from spreading if everyone goes back to work as normal, experts have said.

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