Leading infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci says coronavirus cases could grow to 100,000 a day in the US if Americans don’t start following public health recommendations.
The coronavirus task force member made the remark at a Senate hearing on reopening schools and workplaces in Washington on Tuesday.
Asked to forecast the outcome of recent surges in some states, Dr Fauci said he couldn’t make an accurate prediction but believed it would 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,” Dr Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health, said.
Dr 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 socialising in crowds, often without masks, and otherwise ignoring safety guidelines.
The states of California, Texas and Arizona have emerged as new epicentres of the pandemic, each reporting record increases in COVID-19 cases, adding to pressure on scores of potential vaccines being rushed into trials.
“Clearly we are not in total control right now. I am very concerned because it could get very bad,” Dr Fauci said.
“We can't just focus on those areas that are having the surge. It puts the entire country at risk.”
He said there was no guarantee of having vaccine to prevent infection soon, but that early data had left scientists “cautiously optimistic” for 2021.
“Hopefully there will be doses available by the beginning of next year.”
COVID-19 cases more than doubled in June in at least 10 states, including Texas and Florida, a Reuters tally showed.
In parts of Texas and Arizona, hospital intensive care beds for COVID-19 patients are in short supply.
More than 126,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and millions have lost their jobs, as states and major cities ordered residents to stay home and businesses closed.
The number of infections recorded worldwide topped 10 million over the weekend, with the World Health Organisation saying the pandemic is “not even close to being over”.
With Associated Press and Reuters
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.