Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned members of Congress on Tuesday that the U.S. could reach 100,000 new COVID-19 cases per day if the country does not get a handle on the pandemic.
Speaking before the Senate health committee, Fauci said the country is heading in the “wrong direction” as the average number of daily cases continues to go up.
“We need to do something about that and we need to do it very quickly,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The U.S. is now recording 40,000 new cases per day, surpassing previous records set in April when New York was the epicenter of the outbreak. There are now more than 2.6 million confirmed cases in the U.S., including 126,000 deaths. States started recording increases after Memorial Day when many states lifted restrictions on businesses and activities that had been in place to slow the spread of the virus.
Outbreaks in Texas, Arizona, Florida and California now account for 50 percent of new infections in the U.S.
Fauci stressed that the U.S. can’t just focus on those four states because outbreaks there “puts the entire country at risk.”
Fauci declined to estimate potential COVID-19 deaths when pressed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, but said the situation 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’re doing well, they are vulnerable.”
“I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 [cases] a day if this does not turn around and so I am very concerned,” he added.
Indeed, dozens of states are reporting increased COVID-19 case numbers, which cannot all be accounted for by increased testing. Experts have tied rising cases to states reopening too soon after telling people to stay home earlier this year.
Public health experts worry that people are not taking seriously recommendations to stay 6 feet away from others or to wear masks when social distancing is not possible.
Some states have halted their reopening efforts. Governors in Texas, Arizona, California and Florida in recent days have ordered bars to close over concerns that people are crowding each other and not following social distancing rules.
“If you look at what’s going on and just look at some of the film clips that you’ve seen of people congregating, often without masks, of being in crowds and jumping over and avoiding and not paying attention to the guidelines that we very carefully put out,” Fauci said.
“We’re going to continue to be in a lot of trouble, and there’s going to be a lot of hurt if that does not stop.”