Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Monday said the U.S. is “nearing” the peak of the coronavirus crisis.
“We are nearing the peak right now,” Dr. Redfield said on NBC’s “Today” show. “You’ll know when you’re at the peak when the next day is actually less than the day before, but clearly the rate — we are stabilizing across the country right now in terms of the state of this outbreak.”
He said contact tracing and testing will be key to making sure the country stays open when it does reopen.
“Antibody testing is going to give us a good idea from a surveillance point of view of how significant the outbreak was,” Dr. Redfield said.
Testing for antibodies, which could show who had the coronavirus at one point and could be immune, is not yet widespread.
Dr. Redfield said that testing could help restore consumer confidence in certain workforces if people are more confident that they already have immunity.
He said any reopening must be “step by step” and “data-driven.”
Dr. Redfield was also asked about recent comments from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, that earlier social distancing measures might have saved lives — comments that were apparently noticed by President Trump on Sunday.
“I think right now our job is to get through this outbreak and get our country back to work,” Dr. Redfield said.
He said that in January and February, the U.S. cases were limited and appeared to be related to travel from China.
By late February they realized that aggressive mitigation was important, he said.
“Through February 28th I think we had 14 cases in the country and that’s when we got the first two community cases at the end of the month and began to institute broader mitigation,” he said.
On Jan. 31, Mr. Trump had announced that the U.S. would impose new restrictions on travel from China to the United States.
On March 16, the president announced new federal guidelines advising people to stay at home if they could and avoid large gatherings.
Mr. Trump has extended those guidelines until the end of April, though many states across the country have also passed their own restrictions on residents’ movements to try to mitigate the spread.