U.S. communities must act ‘proportionately’ on coronavirus: Fauci

By Susan Heavey

(Reuters) – U.S. communities must take proportionate measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the nation’s top infectious disease official said on Friday as the United States sought to mitigate the impact of the illness.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, in a series of television interviews, said he expected to see the availability of testing for the virus increase within a week.

“The next few weeks, for most Americans, what you’re going to see is an acceleration of cases. There’s no doubt about it because that’s how these outbreaks work,” Fauci told MSNBC.

Cultural institutions and schools have been shut and sports events canceled as public health officials urged Americans to avoid large crowds to try to mitigate the spread of the disease and prevent the healthcare system being overloaded.

“You need to do it proportionately. If you have a considerable amount or even the beginnings of community spread in your community, clearly you need to do very aggressive mitigation procedures,” Fauci said.

Less-affected areas can take less drastic measures such as physical separation, avoiding crowds and not traveling unnecessarily, he said.

The highly contagious disease has killed at least 40 people in the United States. It has affected some U.S. states particularly hard, including New York, California and Washington state, and has continued to creep into a number of other states that have acted to try to avoid becoming additional hot spots.

The coronavirus has also have an impact on Washington, shuttering Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court to the public. Washington mayor Muriel Bowser said on Friday that schools and libraries would close until April, and adjusted city operations to allow employees to work remotely when possible.

U.S. lawmakers, meanwhile, sought to finalize a deal with the White House to provide economic relief because the global outbreak has shaken markets and threatened to wreak havoc on the U.S. economy. Congress earlier approved $8.3 billion to combat the virus.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were also scheduled to meet with industry leaders later on Friday, according to the White House. It gave no other details.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Lisa Lambert; editing by Jason Neely and Timothy Heritage)