Fauci: US seeing ‘disturbing’ new surge of infections
Anthony Fauci, the administration’s top infectious disease doctor, told a House panel on Tuesday that the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a “mixed bag,” adding that a new increase in cases is “disturbing.”
“In some respects, we’ve done very well,” Fauci said during an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, specifically praising the way New York has been containing the worst outbreak in the country to date.
“However, in other areas of the country, we are now seeing a disturbing surge of infections that looks like it’s a combination, but one of the things is an increase in community spread. And that’s something I’m really quite concerned about,” Fauci said.
There are now about 30,000 new cases per day in the United States. The number of new cases had leveled off at about 20,000, and stayed there for weeks before rising this past weekend.
The rise in the U.S. comes as the Trump administration has sought to paint a rosier picture of the U.S. outlook. Both President Trump and Vice President Pence have inaccurately tried to attribute the increase in cases to more tests being performed.
The new spike in the U.S. is being driven in part by worsening outbreaks across the South and Southwest, including in Arizona, Texas, Florida and the Carolinas, even as the situation has greatly improved in once hard-hit states in the Northeast like New York and Massachusetts.
Many of the states now being hit hard were on the more aggressive side in reopening their economies.
“Right now, the next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surgings that we’re seeing in Florida, in Texas, in Arizona, and in other states,” Fauci said Tuesday.
While cases are spiking, the hospitalization and death rates have not been rising. But contrary to what some administration officials have argued, Fauci said it was too early to draw conclusions.
“Deaths always lag considerably behind cases. You’re seeing more cases now while the deaths are going down. The concern is if those cases infect people who wind up getting sick and going to the hospital, it is conceivable you may see the deaths going up, so I think it is too early to say because the deaths are going down,” Fauci said.
Fauci said he understands young people have a “pent up urge to go out,” but urged everyone to wear masks, continue to practice physical distancing, and adhere to the guidelines developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fauci said even though young people might think they won’t get seriously ill from the virus, they could still unknowingly spread it to others.
“Even though the overwhelming majority then do well, what you can’t forget is if you get infected and spread the infection, even though you do not get sick, you are part of the process of the dynamics of an outbreak,” Fauci said. “What you might be propagating, perhaps innocently, is you infect someone, who infects someone, who then infects someone who is vulnerable.”
Fauci, along with other top health officials, made it clear that he believes the virus will continue to be a concern well into the fall and coincide with flu season, despite Trump’s repeated efforts to downplay the severity of the outbreak.
CDC director Robert Redfield urged the public to get a flu shot.
“This single act will save lives,” he said.
Fauci also said he was “cautiously optimistic” that a vaccine would be available by early next year.
Fauci, along with Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, reassured lawmakers that any potential vaccine will be safe, and the approval will be free from political influence.
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