WASHINGTON, DC — Dr. Anthony Fauci said coronavirus cases could grow to 100,000 a day in the U.S. if Americans don’t start following public health recommendations.
The nation’s leading infectious disease expert made the remark Tuesday at a U.S. Senate hearing on re-opening schools and workplaces.
Asked to forecast the outcome of recent surges in some states, Fauci said he can’t make an accurate prediction but believes it will be “very disturbing.”
“We are now having 40-plus-thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around, and so I am very concerned,” said Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health.
Fauci said areas seeing recent outbreaks are putting the entire nation at risk, including areas that have made progress in reducing Covid-19 cases. He cited recent video footage of people socializing in crowds, often without masks, and otherwise ignoring safety guidelines.
"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," Fauci said. "We can't just focus on those areas that are having the surge. It puts the entire country at risk."
Fauci added, "I think it is important to tell and you the American public that I'm very concerned because it could get very bad."
Fauci's ominous comments came as he responded to questions from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, who said, "We can’t keep pretending this virus is getting better."
“Clearly, we are not in total control right now,” he told Warren. “I'm not satisfied with what's going on, because we're going in the wrong direction."
Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that while some states have gotten ahold of the virus, he’s very concerned about others where it has spiked.
“I'm very concerned about what's going on right now, particularly in the four states that are accounting for about 50% of the new infections,” Fauci added. Those states are Florida, Texas, California and Arizona.
Fauci said on the news he sees people congregating in crowds, not wearing masks and states jumping over guidelines on reopening.
“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,” he said.
At least 36 states are currently seeing an increase in cases compared to the previous week, according to data from John Hopkins University. At least 11 of those states are seeing a 50% or more increase in cases.
Fauci urged the public to wear face coverings as states continue to struggle to contain the virus. Fauci said "we recommend masks for everyone" and "masks are extremely important."
Fauci and other top health officials at the Senate hearing also warned of a "tremendous burden" that the U.S. health care system faces this fall if seasonal flu and Covid-19 are circulating together.
"If there is Covid-19 and flu activity at the same time, this could place a tremendous burden on the health care system related to bed occupancy, laboratory testing needs, personal protective equipment and health care worker safety," the health leaders said in a prepared statement.
Still, the officials stuck to their suggestion that the decision to open schools be left to each community.
Fauci concluded by saying there's "no guarantee" the U.S. will develop a "safe and effective" Covid-19 vaccine — but experts are "aspirationally hopeful" there could be doses available to the public by next year.