WASHINGTON

The US’s top infectious disease expert warned Tuesday there could be “serious consequences” if states do not follow guidelines for reopening during the coronavirus pandemic and do it too quickly.

“My concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told a Senate Committee in testimony from home.

Fauci’s remarks came as President Donald Trump continues to push state governors to expedite the process of re-opening their economies as the US grapples with Great Depression-levels of unemployment caused by mass business closures instituted to stem the virus’s tide.

This week, several states have experienced protests by residents who are growing tired of the virus restrictions and want to get back to normalcy. The virus has infected more than 1.3 million people in the US.

Fauci also warned “even under the best of circumstances” there will be an increase in coronavirus cases.

“It’s the ability and the capability of responding to those cases with good identification, isolation and contact tracing will determine whether you can continue to go forward, as you try to reopen America,” said Fauci.

More than 81,000 coronavirus-related deaths have been detected in the US, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The first death took occurred Feb. 29 in Washington state.

Separately, a predictive model suggested that reopenings could actually result in a rise in the number of deaths.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts 137,184 virus-related deaths by the beginning of August.

The increase is largely due to raised human movement, said institute head Dr. Christopher Murray who also cautioned it will likely result in a slowed reduction in the number of daily deaths.

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