Don’t ‘balance lives against the economy,’ Dr. Anthony Fauci warns

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Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 30, 2020.

Kevin Dietsch | Reuters

World leaders cannot “balance lives against the economy” in weighing decisions reopen businesses that have been shuttered to prevent spread of the coronavirus that has already killed more than 517,600 people, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday. 

Facing mounting political pressure and job losses, every state in the U.S. has reopened parts of their economies in recent weeks. Some, including Texas and Florida, have had to walk back those plans as cases spiked and outbreaks flared up across America. 

“You have people who think in one direction and those who think in the other” when it comes to the decision to reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic safely, Fauci said in an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

“We’re in an unprecedented pandemic,” Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told JAMA. “We haven’t seen anything like this for the last 102 years in 1918, and this is something that we need to take very seriously because there’s so many implications of it.” 

Fauci’s comments come after the U.S. reported more than 50,600 additional coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the largest single-day increase since the beginning of the outbreak, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The record-breaking increase in new coronavirus cases continues to push the U.S. farther beyond what some previously thought was its peak earlier this year. As of Wednesday, the U.S. reported an average of 43,404 new cases, marking a week that the average has exceeded previous highs set in April. CNBC calculates its daily Covid-19 cases using data compiled by Johns Hopkins University based on an average over the previous seven days to eliminate fluctuations in daily reporting.

“You don’t want to balance lives against the economy,” Fauci said. “So let’s get public health to help us to get the economy open as opposed to two opposing forces.”

Governors in California, Arizona, Michigan, Texas and Florida have been forced to close bars and other indoor businesses in their states as coronavirus outbreaks continue to surge across the country.

Even states that have reported declining cases and hospitalizations have placed a pause on their planned reopenings. New Jersey postponed reopening indoor dining at restaurants in the state and New York City said they would do the same shortly after. 

Despite the recent surge in cases, Vice President Mike Pence vowed on Thursday that the Trump administration would “keep opening up America.”

During an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street,” Pence said hat the White House will stay with state leaders “every step of the way as they continue to take steps to mitigate the expansion of the coronavirus.”

“But we’re going to keep opening up America again and have more days just like today,” Pence said.

— CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger and Yelena Dzhanova contributed to this report. 

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