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Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, says the United States is facing a “concerted challenge” to navigate the resurgent Covid-19 outbreak — but if Americans band together, the nation can avert another extended shutdown.

“There seems to be a misperception that either you shut down completely and damage a lot of things, mental health, the economy, all kinds of things, or let it rip and do whatever you want,” Fauci told POLITICO’s “Pulse Check” podcast on Wednesday. “There’s a stepwise fashion that you can open up the economy successfully.

“You don’t have to lock down again, but everybody has got to be on board for doing these five or six fundamental public health measures” like masks and social distancing, Anthony Fauci added.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Anthony Fauci addressed the breakdowns, the recent surge in cases and his own role in trying to steer the nation through a historic outbreak that’s already killed more than 160,000 Americans and appears to be surging again.

Even as cases have risen in recent weeks, “I think we can get through this without having to revert back to a shutdown” if Americans uniformly wear masks, physically distance, avoid crowds and follow hand-hygiene recommendations, Fauci said. “When you have a weak link, then the whole system is unsuccessful.”

Fauci also said that while Covid-19 is presenting a historic threat, he’s worried about the next pandemic, too. “I tend not to be pessimistic, but I tend to be realistic about the foibles of our society and of our human nature,” Fauci added. “So I think we’re going to have outbreaks after this outbreak.”

Fauci also acknowledged criticism from President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly said that the doctor had been overly optimistic about containing the virus. According to Fauci, while he did advise this winter that Covid-19 was potentially containable, he stressed that his critics have omitted key context: that Fauci said the situation could change.

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