Dr. Anthony Fauci has a stark warning for America: Go slow or die.
The top pandemic doctor plans to tell a Senate committee that the country risks "needless suffering and death" if it rushes headlong into reopening the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"The major message that I wish to convey ... is the danger of trying to open the country prematurely," he wrote in an email preview of his dramatic testimony.
Fauci, one of the nation's top experts on infectious diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, is effectively making his sharpest break yet with President Donald Trump, who is increasingly pushing to reopen the country.
Planning to speak via teleconference because he is self-isolating, the Brooklyn native plans to warn the nation that seeking to go too fast would lead to even more death and economic devastation.
"If we skip over the checkpoints ... we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country," he said in an email to a New York Times reporter. "This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal."
The highly anticipated hearing is shaping up as a watershed moment in the controversial response to the deadly pandemic, which has already killed more than 80,000 Americans.
Fauci has sought to avoid confrontation with Trump even as the president has lurched from denying the danger of the virus to promoting unproven drugs as supposed "miracle" cures.
Just Monday, Trump improbably proclaimed victory in the battle against the virus, although he later claimed he was referring only to ramping up testing.
But the two men may be on a collision course now that Trump has apparently decided to throw caution to the wind and push to reopen the country despite the advice of his own public health experts.
Guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control set specific benchmarks that states should meet before reopening, but Trump has urged governors to ignore them and open anyway.
Democrats urged Fauci to tell the nation the unvarnished truth about the pandemic even if it contradicts the president's happy talk.
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, called for a "rational" plan to restart the economy.
"Everyone wants to open ... but they want to open in a rational way," Biden told ABC News. "This isn't politics, this is life."
"President Trump has been like an ostrich: He said it was a hoax, it would go away," Sen. Chuck Schumer told CNN. "Dr. Fauci is a truth-teller. He has to tell the whole truth."
Right-wing allies of Trump wasted little time pushing back against Fauci's grim warning. They branded Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx as voices of doom and gloom just as Trump claims the nation is turning the corner.