Fauci says social distancing over coronavirus can stop U.S. from "becoming an Italy"

Fauci says social distancing is crucial to prevent U.S. from "becoming an Italy"

Washington — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, stressed Sunday that mitigation measures implemented to flatten the number of new coronavirus cases are vital to stopping the U.S. "from becoming an Italy."

"The kinds of mitigation issues that are going on right now, the things that we're seeing in this country, this physical separation at the same time as we're preventing an influx of cases coming in, I think that's going to go a long way to preventing us from becoming an Italy," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told "Face the Nation."

Italy has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, reporting record-breaking death tolls for two consecutive days. The number of infections in the country rose to 53,000, with more than 4,800 deaths.

In the United States, there are more than 26,000 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University, and 340 deaths.

To stop the spread of the coronavirus, public health officials have urged Americans to implement social distancing and limit their social gatherings.

Fauci acknowledged that while the trajectory in the U.S. is "unpredictable," the country has taken steps to ensure it does not follow in Italy's path.

"I think it will be the case that we will not be that way because we have from the beginning been able to put a bit of a clamper," he said.

Fauci also praised the work of the private sector in responding to the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., including those that have stepped up to produce ventilators and personal protective equipment for health care workers on the front lines.

President Trump tweeted Sunday that Ford, General Motors and Tesla "are being given the go ahead" to manufacture ventilators and other "metal products fast."

While Mr. Trump said last week he was prepared to use the Defense Production Act, which is designed to speed up and expand the supply of resources from the country's industrial base, there is confusion as to whether it has been invoked.

"These companies are coming forth on their own," Fauci said. "And I think that's an extraordinary spirit of the American spirit of not needing to be coaxed. They're stepping forward."

Companies, he added, are making masks, ventilators and also equipment currently lacking in the nation's hospitals and health care facilities, where doctors, nurses and other medical staff are treating those fighting the coronavirus.

While cities and states have implemented measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the number of cases has continued to grow, especially in New York, where there are now more than 15,000 cases.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has warned of a dearth of equipment in his state, but Fauci said the federal government would ensure the state has the equipment needed.

"The situation is now that the resources that are being marshaled are going to be clearly directed to those hotspots that need it most, and clearly, that's California, Washington state and, obviously, New York is the most hard hit," he said. "So not only is New York trying to get resources themselves, but we're going to be pouring it in from the federal government. So it would be a combination of local and federal. But it's very, very clear that they are a very high priority."

Fauci also addressed the daylight between him and president over a two-drug cocktail — hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin — which Mr. Trump has touted as a possible "game changer."

Fauci said the president, as well as others, have hard "anecdotal reports" of the effectiveness of the two drugs and said Mr. Trump was approaching the issue from a "hope, layperson standpoint," while he was coming from a "scientific standpoint."

"What he was trying to do and express was the hope that if they might work, let's try and push their usage. I, on the other side, have said I'm not disagreeing with the fact anecdotally they might work but my job is to prove definitively from a scientific standpoint that they do work," Fauci said. "So I was taking a purely medical, scientific standpoint and the president was trying to bring hope to the people."