The nation’s top infectious disease expert gave a dire warning on Tuesday afternoon during a Senate hearing that the novel coronavirus outbreak in the United States is causing him to be “very concerned” and he believes that new daily cases could reach an astonishing 100,000 a day “if this does not turn around.”
As video of the event on C-SPAN showed, Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee to discuss the situation. He warned that the country is not in “total control” of the spread and it could spell disaster in the future.
When asked by Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, if the U.S. was heading in the right direction in addressing the pandemic, Fauci responded that he was concerned.
“Well I think the numbers speak for themselves,” Fauci said, adding that not all parts of the country were seeing a surge, but several were having intense outbreaks. “I’m very concerned and I’m not satisfied with what’s going on because we’re going in the wrong direction if you look at the curves of the new cases, so we really have got to do something about that and we need to do it quickly.”
Warren said that it seems as though the country needed to get its “act together” in order to address the outbreak, noting that back in March they had predicted just 100,000 to 200,000 infections. Today, over 126,000 people have died from the disease.
“I can’t make an accurate prediction but it’s going to be very disturbing,” he said. “We are now having 40-plus-thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around, and so I am very concerned.”
He explained that even though 50 percent of new infections were coming from five states, all areas were vulnerable and the entire country would need to work together to fight the outbreak.
Over the last seven days, there have been 39,750 new cases each day, up 40 percent from just a week ago. In states like Florida, California, Texas, and Arizona, there has been a resurgence of the disease that has prompted local leaders to stop plans for re-opening their economies.
Fauci didn’t blame the resurgence on any one thing, but said that it was likely in part to some states reopening prematurely and some citizens opting not to follow federal and local guidelines.
He said that when states open, it has to be done carefully and by following a list of checks that are essential to slowing the spread. He warned that people will need to continue to wear masks, avoid gathering in crowded spaces, and to respect physical distancing even as states reopen.
Fauci also said that contact tracing is going to be essential in the efforts to return to normalcy, but that current efforts are not going well. There aren’t enough tests and not enough employees doing the tracing.
On Monday, Fauci also warned that if people don’t get the vaccine when it becomes available, the country won’t reach the herd immunity necessary to go back to the way things were before the pandemic.