The number of new Chinese coronavirus cases in the United States could reach 100,000 a day if the country fails to turn things around, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, predicted while testifying before a Senate panel on Tuesday.
There are currently about 40,000 new daily infections of COVID-19, the disease associated with the novel coronavirus, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), a component of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), testified.
“We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day,” Fauci told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). “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.”
His comments came in response to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asking, “How many COVID-19 deaths and infections should America expect before this is all over?”
In responding, Fauci added:
I can’t make an accurate prediction, but it is going to be very disturbing, I will guarantee you that, because when you have an outbreak in one part of the country even though in other parts of the country they are doing well, they are vulnerable… We can’t just focus on those areas that are having the surge. It puts the entire country at risk.
Fauci refused to estimate the overall number of COVID-19 fatalities, saying that he gleaned his prediction in March that there would be between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths from models that tend to change over time.
He told Senators:
I would really be hesitant to give a number [on the overall number of deaths] that will come back in either be contradicted, overblown, or under blown, but I think it’s important to tell you and the American public that I’m very concerned because it could get very bad.
Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) who testified alongside Fauci, struck a more optimistic tone, saying the country “can reverse these concerning trends.”
Dr. Giroir suggested that the United States is in a better position to handle a spike in cases, testifying:
All of us are concerned about recent data from several states indicating rising infections and now an uptick in hospitalizations and deaths even as other states and the majority of counties are maintaining a low infection burden.
Knowing what we know now about a symptom of the transmission and the fact that we are in a much better position today in terms of our mitigation strategies, PPE [personal protective equipment] and testing we can reverse these concerning trends if we work together.
He urged U.S. residents to maintain social distancing, wear a face-covering whenever physical distance is impossible, practice good hygiene, and stay home if they are feeling sick.
“If you have been in close contact with someone infected or in a gathering without appropriate precautions, get tested,” Giroir added. “Shield the elderly and the vulnerable of any age. And follow the guidelines for opening up America again.”
Echoing Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), noted that cases are increasing across the United States, particularly in the southern part of the country, following “an extended decline.”
The CDC chief testified:
The number of jurisdictions with an upward trajectory has continued to increase. Now 29 of 55 jurisdictions [in the United States] fall into this category. The evidence tells us that these cases are driven by many factors to include increased testing, community transmission, and outbreaks in settings such as nursing homes and occupational settings.
While hospitalizations are going up in some states, the number of hospital visits and deaths remains stable in most of the country, Redfield indicated.
“Hospitalizations now are going up in 12 states, and as of this weekend daily death has now increased in the state of Arizona,” Dr. Redfield said. “CDC is closely monitoring these increases.”
Health experts predicted cases would go up as more people ventured out of their homes during the reopening phase. Some public health experts have also warned that the recent protests are an ideal breeding ground for spreading COVID-19.