Dr. Anthony Fauci said that there was "no appetite" for lockdowns in the US and that steps like wearing masks and social distancing could be enough to control the pandemic.
Fauci told "Good Morning America" on Thursday that taking these steps means that a lockdown might not be needed, adding: "You don't have to take that step that people are trying to avoid."
His comments came the day after a COVID-19 advisor to President-elect Joe Biden recommended a national lockdown that could last between four to six weeks.
It is not clear if Fauci was responding to that suggestion. Biden has not advocated a lockdown, but has pledged a more effective response than that of President Donald Trump.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious-disease expert, on Thursday said the country had "no appetite" for lockdowns but that wearing masks and social distancing could be enough to control the coronavirus outbreak.
Fauci, who serves on the White House coronavirus task force, made the comments the day after Michael Osterholm, a COVID-19 advisor to President-elect Joe Biden, recommended a national lockdown that could last between four to six weeks in a bid to reduce the country's infections.
Biden himself has not advocated for a lockdown, but has called for a stronger strategy to address the health crisis. He has also repeatedly said that he will "listen to the scientists" when working on public-health policy.
There is no indication that Fauci was responding directly to Osterholm's suggestion of a lockdown, but said on "Good Morning America" on Thursday that there was "no appetite for locking down" among Americans.
He did not cite evidence for this belief, though there have been anti-lockdown protests across the country since the pandemic began.
Fauci added that "I believe that we can do it without a lockdown. I really do."
"The best opposite strategy to locking down is to intensify the public-health measures short of locking down," he said. "So if you can do that well, you don't have to take that step that people are trying to avoid, which has so many implications both psychologically and economically. We'd like not to do that."
He said that the US would not need to lock down if people followed other public-health advice, like wearing masks and social distancing.
"What we need to do is what we've been talking about for some time now, but really doubling down on it," he said.
"There are certain fundamental, baseline things that you can do: universal and uniform wearing of masks; avoiding crowded, congregate situations; keeping physical distance."
"If we could just hang in there, do the public-health measures that we're talking about, we're going to get this under control, I promise you," he added.
Watch the interview here:
—ABC News (@ABC) November 12, 2020
While many countries have used weeks-long, localized or national lockdowns to try and control their outbreaks, the US has largely avoided that strategy, with President Donald Trump criticizing countries who have done them.
The other measures for controlling the virus that Fauci endorsed are not being enforced either: Many US states don't have mask mandates, and the restrictions on social gatherings vary across states.
Biden has already created a coronavirus task force, which includes experts who have served under previous administrations during other infectious-disease outbreaks.
Biden has also encouraged people to wear masks throughout the year.
The US is the worst-hit country in the pandemic, having recorded the highest number of cases and deaths in the world.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, more than 10.5 million people in the US have tested positive for the virus, and more than 240,000 people have died.
The US hit a record for the number of new coronavirus cases reported in a day on Thursday, with more than 150,000 new recorded. As of Thursday, more than 67,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 complications, an all-time high.
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