Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said he doesn’t know why the United States hasn’t instituted a nationwide stay-at-home order amid the spread of COVID-19, saying the country “really should be” doing so to protect American lives.
“I don’t understand why that’s not happening,” Fauci, one of the leading scientific voices behind the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, told CNN on Thursday. “The tension between federally mandated versus states’ rights to do what they want is something I don’t want to get into. But if you look at what is going on in this country, I do not understand why we are not doing that. We really should be.”
Fauci’s comments come amid increasingly dire figures related to the pandemic: At least 245,000 Americans have been infected and more than 6,100 have died. In New York, the state hardest hit so far, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said health workers would run out of ventilators in six days if stockpiles aren’t resupplied.
And those numbers are expected to grow. Fauci warned earlier this week that between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans could die of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, even if social distancing guidelines are maintained.
In the past few weeks, many states and counties around the country have instituted some form of stay-at-home orders, encouraging residents to stay inside except for essential activities, including grocery shopping and exercise. The New York Times noted that about 297 million people in 38 states and a bevy of cities are under such guidelines, although some states have not yet announced any such measures.
Many lawmakers have encouraged President Donald Trump to issue a directive, but he has so far resisted instituting a nationwide order, saying such decisions required a “little flexibility.”
“If you have a state in the Midwest, or if Alaska, for example, doesn’t have a problem, it’s awfully tough to say close it down,” Trump said on Wednesday. “We have to have a little bit of flexibility.”
The president did extend nationwide social distancing guidelines — which he initially hoped to lift by Easter — until at least the end of the month amid the sobering predictions of death rates in the country. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told NBC’s “Today” this week that those guidelines should be interpreted as stay-at-home orders.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.