Anthony Fauci has warned that the US could see coronavirus cases soar to 100,000 a day, reflecting mounting fears in Washington that western and southern states may be unable to rein in new spikes in infections.
Dr Fauci’s warning, which the White House coronavirus task force member made in Capitol Hill testimony, comes as Texas, Florida and Arizona have been forced to reimpose restrictions on business activity after sharp increases in hospitalisations.
June has seen the rate of daily coronavirus cases at least double for almost a third of all US states, according to a Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.
“We’re now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around,” Dr Fauci told a Senate hearing on Tuesday. “I am very concerned because it could get very bad.”
Florida has had the biggest increase in infections over the course of June and is now averaging about 6,600 new cases a day, compared with about 760 a month ago.
Texas and California, which are averaging almost 5,500 new cases a day and have had their case rates go up by 327 per cent and 115 per cent, respectively, since May 31.
“We’re going in the wrong direction,” Dr Fauci said. “Clearly we are not in total control right now.”
Dr Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also warned about the risks presented by clubs and bars, saying data showed it was “really not good” and was likely contributing to the new outbreaks, particularly given the spikes in the US southern and southwestern states. “Congregating in a bar inside is bad news. We’ve really gotta stop that right now.”
As part of their recent roll back of reopening schemes, the governors of Texas, Florida and Arizona have all ordered bars to shut.
Both Dr Fauci and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, urged Americans to wear masks — breaking from President Donald Trump, who has shown little enthusiasm for requiring face coverings.
“It is critical that we all take the personal responsibility to slow the transmission of Covid-19 and embrace the universal use of face coverings,” Dr Redfield told senators.
Chris Murphy, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, said the US government had “parallel messaging operations” because Mr Trump was not urging people to follow the guidelines from his public health experts.
Dr Fauci said he was disturbed at images he had seen of people ignoring social distancing. “When you’re outside and do not have the capability of maintaining distance, you should wear a mask at all times,” he said.
At the hearing, Dr Fauci said there was “no guarantee” there would be an effective vaccine for Covid-19, but that he was “cautiously optimistic” that one would be developed based on information from early trials.
Follow Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter: @dimi
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