Ur­gent plea made as US cases spi­ral

100,000 in­fec­tions a day in sight if peo­ple don’t change ways, Fauci says

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By ZHAO HUANXIN in Wash­ing­ton huanx­inzhao@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

When An­thony Fauci at­tended his first Se­nate hear­ing on the novel coro­n­avirus pan­demic on May 12, the US was re­port­ing 20,000 new cases daily. Tes­ti­fy­ing in the cham­ber for the sec­ond time on Tues­day, the coun­try’s top in­fec­tious dis­ease expert warned that the daily caseload — now at around 40,000 — could reach 100,000 with­out changes in peo­ple’s be­hav­ior.

Fauci, the head of the US Na­tional In­sti­tute of Al­lergy and In­fec­tious Diseases, told a Se­nate com­mit­tee that the pre­cip­i­tous spi­ral won’t be tamed un­til US ci­ti­zens start fol­low­ing ex­ist­ing pub­lic health rec­om­men­da­tions.

“The num­bers speak for them­selves,” Fauci said, not­ing that about 50 per­cent of all new cases are com­ing from four states — Florida, Cal­i­for­nia, Texas and Ari­zona — that re­cently re­opened their economies but now have to roll back due to resur­gent out­breaks.

“Clearly we are not in to­tal con­trol right now,” Fauci said. “I am very con­cerned be­cause it could get very bad.”

As of Tues­day, COVID-19 deaths had ex­ceeded 127,000 in the US, with more than 2.6 mil­lion peo­ple in­fected.

In the past week, 21 US states have re­ported positive test­ing rates above 5 per­cent, the level that the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion has flagged as con­cern­ing, Reuters re­ported.

“I’m very con­cerned, and I’m not sat­is­fied with what’s go­ing on, be­cause we’re go­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion if you look at the curves of the new cases,” Fauci said. “So we re­ally have got to do some­thing about that, and we need to do it quickly.”

Fauci told law­mak­ers that some states are “skip­ping over some of the check­points” in the fed­eral re­open­ing guide­lines, and that he had seen film clips of peo­ple con­gre­gat­ing, of­ten with­out masks and ig­nor­ing so­cial dis­tanc­ing guide­lines that health au­thor­i­ties “very care­fully put out”.

“We’re go­ing to con­tinue to be in a lot of trou­ble,” he said. “There’s go­ing to be a lot of hurt if that does not stop.”

At the May 12 hear­ing, Fauci warned that re­open­ing would in­evitably lead to “re­ally se­ri­ous” con­se­quences, and that “even un­der the best of cir­cum­stances, when you pull back on mit­i­ga­tion, you will see some cases ap­pear”.

He also said it was “ex­tremely im­por­tant” to have safe and ef­fec­tive vac­cines avail­able for ev­ery­one. But he cau­tioned that “there is no guar­an­tee” that US will have a safe and ef­fec­tive vac­cine.

Po­lit­i­cal de­bate

At the start of the hear­ing, Sen­a­tor La­mar Alexan­der, chairman of the Se­nate Health, Ed­u­ca­tion, La­bor and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee, high­lighted the im­por­tance of wear­ing face cov­er­ings, say­ing that “un­for­tu­nately, this sim­ple life­sav­ing prac­tice has be­come part of the po­lit­i­cal de­bate”.

The Ten­nessee Repub­li­can said President Don­ald Trump had the power to end politi­ciza­tion of mask wear­ing that sug­gests that “if you’re for Trump, you don’t wear a mask”.

And he added: “That’s why I’ve sug­gested that the president oc­ca­sion­ally wear a mask.”

Trump’s re­elec­tion cam­paign ar­gued that the president has been at the fore­front of the coun­try’s pan­demic re­sponse.

White House Press Sec­re­tary Kayleigh McE­nany said on Tues­day that the president has said he has no prob­lem with masks, and that he en­cour­ages peo­ple to make what­ever de­ci­sion is best for their safety and to fol­low what their lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions say.

“CDC guide­lines are still rec­om­mended but not re­quired, and the president is the most tested man in Amer­ica,” she said, re­fer­ring to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion. “It’s his de­ci­sion whether to wear a mask.”

Also on Tues­day, at a hear­ing held by the House Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, Fed­eral Re­serve Chairman Jerome Pow­ell said the early re­open­ing of the US econ­omy has brought “new chal­lenges” as shown by re­cent spikes in coro­n­avirus cases.

“The path for­ward for the econ­omy is ex­traor­di­nar­ily un­cer­tain, and will de­pend in large part on our suc­cess in con­tain­ing the virus. A full re­cov­ery is un­likely un­til peo­ple are con­fi­dent that it is safe to reen­gage in a broad range of ac­tiv­i­ties,” Pow­ell said.

KEVIN DI­ETSCH / REUTERS

In­fec­tious diseases expert An­thony Fauci tes­ti­fies at a hear­ing on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton on Tues­day.

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