Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, arrives to speak with members of the coronavirus task force during a briefing in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Thursday, April 09, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images
Stay-at-home orders intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus could end up causing "irreparable damage" if imposed for too long, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNBC on Friday.
"I don't want people to think that any of us feel that staying locked down for a prolonged period of time is the way to go," Fauci said during an interview with CNBC's Meg Tirrell on "Halftime Report."
He said the U.S. had to institute severe measures because cases were exploding. "But now is the time, depending upon where you are and what your situation is, to begin to seriously look at reopening the economy, reopening the country to try to get back to some degree of normal."
However, Fauci also cautioned states against reducing social distancing measures too quickly, adding they must take "very significant precautions."
"In general, I think most of the country is doing it in a prudent way," he said. "There are obviously some situations where people might be jumping over that. I just say please proceed with caution if you're going to do that."
Just last week, Fauci warned members of Congress that the United States could face even more "suffering and death" from the coronavirus if some states rush to reopen businesses too early.
It could also hinder states "on the road to try to get back to an economic recovery," he testified at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on May 12. "It would almost turn the clock back rather than going forward. That is my major concern."
The virus, which emerged in Wuhan, China less than five months ago, has infected more than 1.5 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Earlier in the day, Fauci said it was "conceivable" that the U.S. could begin to roll out a coronavirus vaccine by December.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.