Fauci calls for U.S. to hit 'reset button' after some states reopened too quickly

"You can’t act as if you’re operating in a vacuum. You have to accept the societal responsibility that, if we want to stop this, everyone has to contribute. You can’t say ‘I don’t care,'" Anthony Fauci, M.D., said in an interview with The Atlantic on Wednesday. (NIAID)

When it comes to getting the U.S. back on track in its response to COVID-19, Anthony Fauci, M.D., said the U.S. needs to hit the "reset button."

"By pushing the reset button I don’t mean everybody locking down again. Obviously that’s more draconian. I do not mean that," Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, told The Atlantic in an interview Wednesday.

States began to reopen when the U.S. hit a baseline of cases of around 20,000 a day—far higher than other countries in Asia and Europe. Now, cases have begun soaring to record levels of about 60,000 new cases a day. The U.S. has to focus on getting that baseline down by more carefully and prudently reopening, he said.

"Maybe we need to walk back a bit and say, ‘If you're going to open, we’ve got to get everybody on the same team,'" Fauci said. "If you look at states, and I’m not going to name any state, some states did in fact prematurely jump over those checkpoints and maybe went from one to the other." Other states had officials that did give official guidelines, but the community didn't respond, Fauci said.

"They almost made it an all or none," Fauci said.

As not only new cases of COVID-19 but hospitalizations and deaths also rise, there needs to be a renewed mindset among individuals of all ages to fight the spread of the virus, he said.

The average age of those infected has dropped by more than a decade in recent months. Many young people, in particular, may not be as careful because they have a lower chance of getting sick or having adverse impacts from the virus, but they forget that they can put others at risk if they infect them. Fauci said the so-called COVID-19 parties, in which young people gather with the goal of getting the virus, made his "head spin."

"You can’t act as if you’re operating in a vacuum," he said. "You have to accept the societal responsibility that, if we want to stop this, everyone has to contribute. You can’t say ‘I don’t care.'”

White House controversy

During the discussion, Fauci was asked about a range of issues including a White House-led effort to discredit him. A number of provider groups rushed to defend Fauci after several sources told CNN and other news outlets about the amount of times Fauci, who heads the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been wrong since the pandemic began.

"It is a bit bizarre. I don’t fully understand it," Fauci said. "If you talk to reasonable people in the White House, they realized that was a major mistake on their part because it doesn’t do anything but reflect poorly on them."

He also said he was not involved in a recent decision by the Trump administration to move control of COVID-19 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Department of Health and Human Services. "I’d like to give you a reasonable explanation, but I’ve just been removed from that aspect of the outbreak, you know, focusing as I do on developing vaccines and drugs. I’ve not gotten into that," he said.