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Fauci praises Mass. response to coronavirus as state’s key indicators continue downward trend

Nurse practitioner Dianne Valko used a nasal swab to collect a specimen from Linda Blundell at the NEW Health walk-up COVID-19 testing site in the North End on June 30.
Nurse practitioner Dianne Valko used a nasal swab to collect a specimen from Linda Blundell at the NEW Health walk-up COVID-19 testing site in the North End on June 30.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

The nation’s top infectious disease specialist praised Massachusetts’ response to the coronavirus pandemic this week, as key indicators for the state continued to tick downward while dozens of other states see infections climbing.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also pointed to tighter lockdowns in Europe leading infection rates there to drop while US numbers continue to climb, as he appeared Thursday afternoon in a video interview with Harvard Business Review’s Joshua Macht and Adi Ignatius.

Asked about the virus’s slowing spread in Massachusetts and some other states hit hard early in the pandemic, Fauci cautioned that the numbers would inevitably move upward as the state continues to reopen businesses.

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“You are going to see infections as we try to open up and go from one phase to another,” Fauci said. “By the way, Massachusetts has done a really, really good job. They have. New York City, even though they got hit really badly, did a really good job of getting it down.”

On Monday, Massachusetts is set to move to Phase 3 of its reopening, which includes casinos, museums, and fitness centers, though Boston will move into Phase 3 on July 13.

“It’s critical that we continue to be smart about how we do this,” Governor Charlie Baker said Thursday. “We’d hate to have to move backwards.”

Fauci said tighter restrictions on movement have proved to be successful in slowing the virus’s spread.

“When the European Union shut down … about 95 or more percent of the [union] truly locked down,” Fauci said. “When we were in our lockdown, about 50 percent of the country was in lockdown.”

He then sketched in the air a line depicting the peak and decline of European cases and the plateauing of US cases.

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Fauci also reflected on the politicization of the pandemic, saying that “the political divisiveness” has made it harder “to get a clear message across.” He said his sole focus is public health, but “there are people who clearly come from a different perspective than I do. They have a very, very heavy focus on the economy or on things like jobs.”

Massachusetts health officials reported Friday that 290 more people have contracted the coronavirus and 17 more have died from it, bringing the total death toll in the state to 8,149 and the total case count to 109,628.

The figures include both confirmed and probable coronavirus cases. Of the newly reported deaths, all are confirmed cases of coronavirus. Of the newly reported cases, 212 are confirmed cases, and 78 are probable.

Another 11,444 people have been tested for the coronavirus, the state also announced Friday, bringing to 872,380 the total number of people who have received coronavirus tests in Massachusetts. More than 1.1 million tests have been administered.

There were 985 new people who received antibody tests, which tests for an antibody that would indicate whether a person has already had the coronavirus. In Massachusetts, 74,598 people have been tested for antibodies.

Ahead of the July Fourth holiday, officials warned residents to stay safe and follow coronavirus restrictions.

At a press conference Thursday, Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston urged people to avoid large gatherings and think carefully before doing anything that could put themselves and the community at risk.

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“I urge everyone just to think about the reality of these losses,” Walsh said, referring to those who have died from the coronavirus. “I think about the success that we have had, bringing these numbers down here in Boston and in Massachusetts, and think about our ability to prevent further death and suffering by the actions that we take this weekend, and moving forward.”


Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.