US could hit 100,000 new virus cases a day, Fauci says

Alarming surges in Texas and Florida are driving daily national total of new cases to more than 40,000 a day

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 30, 2020. Kevin Dietsch/Pool via REUTERS

A top US health expert warned Congress on Tuesday that new coronavirus cases could more than double to 100,000 a day if authorities and the public failed to take steps to suppress the pandemic.

Infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci, a leading member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, said the US was going in the “wrong direction” on the pandemic.

Dr Fauci demanded that Americans wear masks and avoid crowds after lax behaviour propelled new outbreaks.

“I’m very concerned and I’m not satisfied with what’s going on, because we’re going in the wrong direction,” he testified to a Senate panel.

Alarming surges in southern hotspots Texas and Florida are driving the daily national total of new cases to more than 40,000 a day, and they need to be tamped down quickly to avoid dangerous rises elsewhere, Dr Fauci said.

“Clearly we are not in total control right now,” he said. “I would not be surprised if it goes up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.”

The dire message reinforced concerns about America’s ability to rein in a pandemic that has claimed about 126,000 lives in the country.

The US, the world’s hardest-hit nation with more than 2.6 million infections, was left off the list of 15 countries to which the EU will open its borders from July 1.

Washington is trying to open schools safely in the coming months.

Dr Fauci said he believed some states were “skipping over some of the checkpoints” that assured safe reopenings of business and public spaces.

And he offered a blunt message to the nation’s young adults who have engaged in “dangerous” behaviour, including congregating in bars, not wearing masks and failing to follow social-distancing guidelines.

“I think we need to emphasise the responsibility that we have, both as individuals and as part of a societal effort to end the epidemic, that we all have to play a part in that,” Dr Fauci said.