Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top United States infectious disease expert, says that reopening the country too soon could result in "suffering and death" and harm the economy. He spoke to a group of American lawmakers Tuesday.

    Fauci's warning came as President Donald Trump continues to praise American states that are reopening after a long period of lockdown. Fauci is a leader of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. President Trump chose him to be part of a small government team formed to shape U.S. policy on COVID-19.

    Fauci told members of a Senate committee that states should follow the Trump administration guidelines before reopening schools and businesses. The three-step guidelines include a decrease in the number of new infections for a 14-day period. States are also advised to establish a strong testing program for the virus and a tracing process to find people who come in contact with those known to be infected.

    An investigation by The Associated Press found that many of the states that have reopened or plan to reopen soon did not meet the administration's guidelines. The states include Alabama, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi and Missouri. Also on the list: Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah.

    Fauci spoke at the hearing through a video link. He quarantined himself after two people who work at the White House were found to have the new coronavirus.

    Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee led the hearing. A member of the Republican Party, Alexander went into quarantine himself after a test showed one of his aides also had the virus. In his opening statement, Alexander said, "All roads back to work and back to school run through testing and what our country has done so far on testing is impressive, but not nearly enough."

    Trump pushed for reopening

    With 30 million people unemployed in a failing economy, Trump has been pushing for the states to reopen. On Monday, the president said that the U.S. "leads the world" after completing 9 million coronavirus tests. But experts note that number represents less than 3 percent of all Americans.

    The president has also cheered Americans who protested their stay-at-home orders from their state governors. In late April, he used emergency powers to force meat processing factories to stay open although numbers of infected workers were rising. And, on Friday, Trump said the virus "is going to go away without a vaccine."

    Fauci, however, told lawmakers that the coronavirus will not simply "disappear." He said the threat of a second coronavirus outbreak is "possible" without a strong testing effort and other measures.

    As of May 12, Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center reported the U.S. has at least 1.3 million infections and over 81,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, the highest numbers in the world. Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 4.2 million people and killed nearly 300,000.

    Fauci said many experts believe more people have died from coronavirus than reported. "I think we're going in the right direction, but the right direction does not mean we have, by any means, total control of this outbreak," he added.

    Separately, an expert from the World Health Organization has already warned that some countries are "driving blind" into economic reopening without strong systems to follow new outbreaks. And three countries with a strong testing and tracing program — South Korea, Germany and China — already have seen new outbreaks after stay-at-home orders were eased.

    I'm Caty Weaver.