Fauci says that lifting lockdowns is 'a matter of weeks' and depends on the availability of 15-minute coronavirus testing

mmcfalljohnsen@businessinsider.com (Morgan McFall-Johnsen)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens as President Donald Trump answers questions during the coronavirus task force daily briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, March 25, 2020.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert, said Sunday that lifting US lockdowns is "going to be a matter of weeks."

  • Fauci, appearing on CNN's "State of the Union," said that the timeline for letting Americans out of their homes depends on the availability of 15-minute COVID-19 testing.

  • The Food and Drug Administration just approved a new COVID-19 test that delivers positive results in five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes. The tests could be available as early as April 1.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

More than half the US population is under lockdown to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, and it's unclear when states will lift those restrictions.

In an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert, didn't have a clear timeline for when Americans can resume life outside their homes. But he said it wouldn't be anytime soon.

"It's going to be a matter of weeks. It's not going to be tomorrow and it's certainly not going to be next week," Fauci told CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday.

Related: 6 Times Trump Contradicted Coronavirus Officials

He added: "If we need to push the date forward, we will push the date forward."

Some experts have called for a nationwide lockdown. But President Donald Trump has expressed eagerness to ease restrictions and reopen the US economy, saying on Tuesday that he wanted the US opened up and "just raring to go by Easter," which is April 12. 

"We have to open up our country, I'm sorry," Trump said on a phone call with governors on Thursday, a recording of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

He also told governors that his administration is working to develop new guidelines for the coronavirus based on risk levels in counties across the country.

15-minute testing will bring the country 'closer' to lifting lockdowns 

Abbott has received emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the fastest available molecular point-of-care test for the detection of novel coronavirus.

Courtesy of Abbott Laboratories

The US government has been criticized for its low testing capabilities, after weeks and delays in producing its own coronavirus test. However, testing in the US is finally beginning to catch up, resulting in a surge of confirmed cases across the country, going from 32,000 on March 22 to over 124,000 today.

But safely lifting restrictions will require a new type of testing altogether, Fauci said.

"I think it's going to depend a lot, Jake, on the availability of those rapid tests that you can get really quickly, 15 minutes or so, where you'll know right away," he said. "So that when you identify someone who's infected, that person doesn't go out into society for a few days, infect a bunch of people, and then you bring them back because the test is positive."

On Friday the Food and Drug Administration approved a new COVID-19 test that delivers positive results in five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes.

The new test runs on Abbott Laboratories' ID NOW platform, which is the most common point-of-care test in the US.

After the new ID NOW COVID-19 test received FDA approval, Abbott announced that it would ramp up its production to make 50,000 units per day as early as next week. According to a spokesperson from the medical device company, the tests will be available beginning on April 1.

"When we get those tests out that you can do right away, rapid point-of-care, and do it, then I think we're going to be closer [to lifting restrictions]," Fauci said.

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