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Fauci's warning, private equity dominance over health care and Matt Damon's whereabouts revealed

"My concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks," Dr. Anthony Fauci warned senators Wednesday.
Image: New York City Continues To Idle During Coronavirus Shutdown
Graffiti giving thanks to front line workers in the fight against coronavirus is displayed in New York.Gotham / Getty Images file

Good morning, NBC News readers.

The country's top health experts gave senators a stark warning about the risks of reopening the country too soon on Wednesday. Some institutions — like the nation's largest university system — are heeding their advice, while others aren't.

Here's what we're watching this Thursday morning.

Fauci and other health experts warn Senate panel about risks of opening too soon

Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Tuesday of serious consequences if governors reopen state economies prematurely, saying he fears spikes in coronavirus infections could morph into further outbreaks of the disease.

Testifying by videoconference before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, ticked through the criteria the White House said states should meet before reopening.

"My concern, that if some areas, city, states or what have you jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks," Fauci said.

Two other members of the White House coronavirus task force — Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Stephen Hahn, the head of the Food and Drug Administration — also testified by videoconference Tuesday because they are self-quarantining after possible exposure to COVID-19.

While Fauci said there are multiple vaccines in clinical development, he dampened expectations that a vaccine would be in place by fall for the start of the new school year, saying that is likely "a bridge too far."

His comments come as there are growing fears about the impact of COVID-19 on children as evidence mounts that the virus can affect them much more severely than previously thought.

The number of children with a rare and potentially deadly inflammatory condition likely linked to COVID-19 has risen to more than 100 in at least 14 states.

Meantime, the Trump administration unveiled plans to ramp up syringe production to help administer a possible COVID-19 vaccine.

The number of deaths linked to COVID-19 has passed 80,000, a grim figure that Fauci acknowledged is probably lower than the actual death toll because some people who died were not tested for the coronavirus.

News Analysis: While the country's top health experts continue to raise red flags about the risks of further COVID-19 outbreaks, President Donald Trump is ignoring them in his push to reopen the country and reinvigorate the economy, NBC News' Jonathan Allen writes.

Here are some other developments:

Private equity firms now control many hospitals, ERs and nursing homes. Is it good for health care?Over the past decade, private equity firms have deployed more than $340 billion to buy health care-related operations around the world.

Private equity's purchases have included rural hospitals, physicians' practices, nursing homes and hospice centers, air ambulance companies and health care billing management and debt collection systems.

This has been a seismic shift. During the 1900s, most hospitals were owned either by nonprofit entities with religious affiliations or by states and cities, with ties to medical schools.

In the business of health care, the drive for profits can run counter to the goal of helping patients and protecting workers, critics say.

Gretchen Morgenson, the senior financial reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit, has an in-depth report on the trend and asks if it's a good thing for health care in the long run.

In unusual step, judge in Flynn case allows third party briefs

The federal judge overseeing the case involving retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn took the unusual step Tuesday night of inviting briefs from third parties, known as amicus briefs.

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said in a filing Tuesday he’ll allow individuals outside of the Justice Department and Flynn’s attorneys to submit filings in the case that might be able to provide the court with additional information or perspectives that might help him make a decision on whether to dismiss the charges against Flynn or let him withdraw his guilty plea.

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THINK about it

Biden should pick Warren for attorney general, not vice president, longtime political strategist James Carville writes in an opinion piece.


Tired of doing dishes? Try one of these quick and easy sheet-pan dinners that make cleanup a cinch.

One fun thing

The coronavirus lockdown has made life strange for many in Ireland, but the residents of a Dublin seaside suburb are getting used to a particularly surreal sight: Hollywood actor Matt Damon.

Sightings of Damon in the village of Dalkey had been reported since the announcement of the lockdown restrictions, with reports of him in local pubs, cafes and restaurants.

But neither the actor — or the local community — would confirm his whereabouts.

Damon finally broke his silence and confirmed that he and his family have been isolating in the village of Dalkey since March during an interview Wednesday with a Dublin radio station.

"Dalkey is incredible, it's one of the most beautiful places we've ever been," Damon said. "We feel guilty that we have this incredible set up in this place. It's absolutely gorgeous."

Image: Matt Damon at the "Ford v Ferrari" Press Conference at the Fairmont Royal York
The Irish village of Dalkey's newest adopted son: Matt Damon.V E Anderson / WireImage file

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Be safe and stay healthy, Petra Cahill