Leading disease researcher Dr. Anthony Fauci has told the US Senate that he would “not be surprised” if new virus infections in the country hit 100,000 a day.
“Obviously we are not in control right now,” he said, warning that the Americans were not wearing enough masks or social distancing.
During the hearing, he said that about half of all new cases came from four states.
Earlier, the governor of New York said that almost half of Americans must self-quarantine if they visit the state.
On Tuesday, cases increased by more than 40,000 in one day for the fourth time in the past five days.
The surge – which occurs particularly heavily in the southern and western states – has forced at least 16 states to suspend or reverse their reopening plans, according to CNN. Florida, Arizona, Texas and California are the four states referenced by Dr. Fauci as being the most affected today.
For some, the new measures come a month after they started to reopen their economies.
Also on Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo increased the number of Americans who must self-quarantine for 14 days if they visit the state. There are now 16 states on the list.
The new states added are California, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Tennessee.
They join Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.
In total, the order affects 48% of all US residents, according to a USA Today analysis.
What did Dr. Fauci say?
Testifying from a Senate committee on efforts to reopen schools and businesses, the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases criticized states for “ignoring” the benchmarks required for reopening, and the cases will increase accordingly.
“I cannot make a precise prediction, but it will be very worrying, I guarantee you,” he said to Senator Elizabeth Warren.
“Because when you have an epidemic in one part of the country, even if in other parts of the country, they are doing well, they are vulnerable. ”
“We can’t just focus on the areas that are experiencing this push. It puts the whole country in danger, ”he added.
Dr. Fauci also called on the US government to produce face masks for free distribution to all Americans, and condemned the “all or nothing phenomenon” of some people who have completely ignored social distancing measures.
Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – who was also testifying on Tuesday – told lawmakers that 12 states have seen hospital admissions increase and that Arizona has seen an increase in mortality rate.
“It is essential that we all take personal responsibility for slowing down the transmission of Covid-19 and embracing universal use of face covers,” said Dr. Redfield.
“The disease affects us all and we will have to work together to stop it. ”
Before the hearing began, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, who chairs the committee, called on President Donald Trump to wear a face mask – an act he has not yet done at a public event.
“Unfortunately, this simple life-saving practice is now part of the political debate,” said Trump’s ally.
“If you are for Trump, you do not wear a mask, if you are against Trump, you do,” he continued, adding “to suggest that the president sometimes wears a mask.”
“The president has many admirers who will follow his example,” he said.
“We have way too many viruses”
On Monday, Dr. Anne Schuchat, senior deputy director of the CDC, warned that the United States was not responding like other countries that have successfully contained the coronavirus, and have allowed the virus to spread much more widely and quickly.
“We are not in the situation of New Zealand, Singapore or Korea where a new case is quickly identified and all contacts are traced and isolated people who are sick and exposed people are quarantined and can keep things under control, “Dr. Schuchat said in an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“We have way too many viruses across the country for that right now, so it’s very disheartening. ”
New Zealand declared the country free from infection on June 8 and, since then, has had to contain several cases from international travelers. South Korea has actively used contact tracers and since April 1 has registered fewer than 100 cases per day. The Singapore epidemic peaked in mid-April when 1,400 new cases were reported in one day.
The United States recorded 2,682,897 confirmed cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University, and has a total of 129,544 deaths.
“This is really the beginning,” added Dr. Schuchat.
“I think there have been a lot of wishful thinking across the country that said,” Hey, it’s summer. ” Everything will be alright. We are finished and we are not even starting to finish it. There are many worrisome factors about the past week. ”
“Collective immunity is unlikely”
Dr Fauci warned on Monday that it was “unlikely” that the United States would develop collective immunity to the coronavirus even after a vaccine was available, which he said could happen in early 2021.
He said this was due to the combination of a vaccine that is potentially only partially effective and the large number of Americans who may refuse to receive it.
“There is a general anti-science, anti-authority, anti-vaccine feeling among some people in this country – an alarming percentage of people, relatively speaking,” he said, calling for more education to promote confidence in vaccines.
Dr. Fauci added that he would be “happy” with a vaccine that is only 70% to 75% effective at first.
According to the CDC website, collective immunity is reached when “a sufficient proportion of a population is immunized against an infectious disease (by vaccination and / or a previous disease) to make its spread from person to person other unlikely ”.