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Public health expert: Now is the time to ‘double down on social distancing’

Ben Werschkul
DC Producer

Dr. Anand Parekh appeared on Yahoo Finance on Wednesday with a dire warning about the ongoing coronavirus public health crisis.

He said the lack of testing may be continuing to hide the true crisis. “We don't know how many cases are even in these areas that are not reporting many cases,” said Parekh, who currently works as chief medical advisor at the Bipartisan Policy Center, of areas around the country. “They may just be a couple of weeks behind what is happening right now in New York.”

“This is all hands on deck, particularly for... New York City,” he said.

Wednesday was also Parekh’s third appearance on Yahoo Finance during this crisis and his comments across all three interviews give a window into just how fast the virus has transformed and threatened American life. He first appeared on Yahoo Finance on Feb. 28 when there were just 62 cases in the US.

Even then, it was clear to him that the crisis might not be containable. “Microbes know no borders,” he said at the time.

“You always have to hope for the best, but you absolutely have to prepare for the worst,” he said. “I think the critical thing here for the American people is not to panic, but to be prepared.”

He appeared again on Yahoo Finance on March 16 as Dr. Anthony Fauci called for a 14-day national quarantine.

Parekh agreed with that idea: “We may very well, very soon get to a national quarantine type of situation like that.” 

A sign outside a branch of a Tesco supermarket alerts customers for the need to obey social distancing measures, in Dublin, on March 25, 2020, after Ireland introduced measures to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Photo by PAUL FAITH / AFP) (Photo by PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty Images)

In the nine days since his last appearance, the U.S. tally has grown to more than 55,000 coronavirus cases.

Parekh, who also served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services from 2008 to 2015, noted the U.S. is behind on testing and the health care response. Given that backdrop, “the best way we can prevent the substantial deaths you are seeing now in Spain and Italy is to really double down on social distancing,” he said.

Since the weekend, President Trump has suggested the opposite, expressing a desire to lift the restrictions on American life soon and even floating Easter, on April 12, as a possible time when the economy can be restarted.

“I think that would be a great thing for our country, and we're all working very hard to make that a reality,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday.

Parekh, as well as many others, doesn’t support that timeline. “I am very concerned about setting arbitrary dates. We need to let science and data, the rate of new infections, and what our healthcare system is looking like, dictate what we do,” he said. “We have to take it one day at a time and one week at a time.”

Ben Werschkul is a producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

Read more:

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Why Trump's call to restart the economy in April is being derided as 'totally nuts'

America may need a 14-day national quarantine because of coronavirus: top health expert

Medical expert on coronavirus: Don't panic, 'prepare for the worst right now'

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