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Doctor on plans for nationwide pandemic recovery: "There's no 100% risk-free way"

COVID-19 test shortages and backlogs
COVID-19 test shortages and backlogs 08:29

While parts of Europe have begun relaxing coronavirus lockdown measures, the U.S. still faces a "slow and very gradual" process of transitioning to a more normal state, says Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider, a physician at Sutter Health in San Francisco. She explained that recovery would likely occur regionally, and described what that might look like for many Americans.

"I think it's important to note that there's no 100% risk-free way of easing up on the current physical distancing restrictions. It's just not possible," she told CBSN anchors Vladimir Duthiers and Anne-Marie Green. 

The doctor highlighted the fact that public health and government officials were modeling various scenarios for moving out of shutdown mode, and praised U.S. governors for "bringing up" the need to balance "economic objectives with the public health objectives."

Ungerleider said more testing and an infrastructure "to isolate and trace cases if new outbreaks crop up" would be critical. 

"Certain areas will have their restrictions eased in a really deliberate manner, with safeguards in place for testing for the virus, testing for antibodies, which as you know is immunity to the virus."

Over 30,000 Americans have so far died of the coronavirus, and Ungerleider blamed "very late" action on COVID-19 testing for the surge in U.S. cases.

"We did not have testing capability early on. We still don't have widespread testing available. It's much better than it was but it's not nearly adequate," she said. "We still don't quite have the capability to ramp up testing as we need to, and this is really critical for us to be able to move forward and reopen society." 

She said the inability to test asymptomatic people in the early days of the outbreak contributed to "the reason we're here today" and "having to continue to shelter in place." 

And she echoed Dr. Anthony Fauci's warning that returning to a semblance of normalcy "won't be like a light switch." 

Ungerleider also said testing was also critical for researchers to learn more about the virus. 

"We know this virus is highly contagious, it's invisible, and it moves very quickly, so we need to understand more about how it spreads, the prevalence of disease, why it impacts some people but not others, where it's occurring most," she said. "We need more testing to be able to do this."

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