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Fauci warns against 'false complacency' on COVID-19

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciUS passes single-day record for new COVID-19 cases Overnight Health Care: Following debate, Biden hammers Trump on coronavirus | Study: Universal mask-wearing could save 130,000 lives | Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight Black Americans don't trust a COVID-19 vaccine — they have valid reasons why MORE, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned Tuesday the U.S. should not fall into “false complacency” because COVID-19 death rates have dropped, noting the virus can cause other severe health outcomes. 

“It’s a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death,” Fauci said Tuesday during a livestreamed press conference hosted by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) 

“There's so many other things that are very dangerous and bad about this virus, don't get yourself into a false complacency,” he added.  

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The rate of COVID-19 deaths has dropped in the U.S. since mid-April when New York was the epicenter of the outbreak. 

While the infections have surged in the South and West, with several states seeing single-day highs in recent days, death rates have not increased. That could be because younger adults are making up a higher percentage of new cases compared to the early days of the epidemic.

Experts anticipate deaths, a lagging indicator in an outbreak, will rise as people generally don’t die until weeks after they become sick. 

Still, President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE and his allies have touted the falling death rate as an indicator the U.S. is succeeding in its fight against COVID-19. 

Trump over the weekend claimed that COVID-19 is “totally harmless” to 99 percent of people who get the disease and he continued to tie surging case numbers to increased testing.

Experts say both claims are false. They note that even people who don’t die of COVID-19 can become seriously ill, requiring hospitalization and ventilation. 

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The elderly and people with underlying health conditions like diabetes and obesity are most likely to face serious health outcomes if they get sick with COVID-19, Fauci said. But he added that "we are now getting multiple examples of young people who are getting sick, getting hospitalized and some of them even requiring intensive care."

“The death rate is lower, I admit that. Because people in general, who are young or healthier. But that doesn't mean that you could not get seriously ill," he said. 

More than 2.9 million COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., including 130,000 deaths. 

Outbreaks are growing in Arizona, Texas, Florida and California, which experts say are the new epicenters of the epidemic in the U.S. There is no end to these surges in sight and cases are increasing in 40 states, compared to just 10 a few months ago.

Fauci on Tuesday characterized the increase in new cases as a “resurgence,” noting that a few weeks ago, the U.S. was averaging 20,000 new cases a day, but recently hit 57,000 in a single day. 

“We're facing a serious problem,” he said. 

He partially blamed the increase in cases on states that opened too soon after closing businesses or issuing stay-at-home orders. 

“We have a situation right now that we've got to proceed to continue to try and open but in a safe, measured, very prudent manner,” he said.