Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, gave a sobering prediction of daily American COVID-19 cases when pressed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Tuesday.
“We are now having 40-plus-thousand cases a day,” he said during a televised Senate hearing. “I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 cases a day if this does not turn around.”
Some parts of the country are currently seeing alarming spikes in COVID-19 cases as the chickens come home to roost from states’ reopening efforts. Fauci said about half of the new nationwide COVID-19 cases are coming from four states: California, Texas, Florida and Arizona.
Florida, in particular, reported 9,585 cases on Saturday — a single-day record since the pandemic began.
Fauci made the prediction in response to questioning from Warren about the direction the country has taken and how many total number of cases and deaths the country could see by the pandemic’s end.
Though he said he couldn’t make an exact prediction without worrying that the totals would later be seen as either overblowing or lowballing it, he said that it’ll be “very disturbing, I can guarantee you that.”
“I think the numbers speak for themselves,” Fauci said. “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, so we really have got to do something about that and we need to do it quickly.”
Fauci also said that states that haven’t been seeing the same spikes as places like Florida could still be “vulnerable,” as those hot spots put “the entire country at risk.”
He attributed the surges to some states possibly “skipping” the checkpoints they should’ve met to reopen slowly and more safely.
The Trump administration published guidelines with suggestions on how to open safely — including, for example, waiting for two straight weeks of decline in daily cases — but meeting the checkpoints was not mandatory.
Now, as some states see the number of cases tick up dramatically, political leaders are actually reversing some of those original reopenings. Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) shut bars back down and limited allowable restaurant capacity as the situation quickly worsened.
Even in states whose leadership was more cautious, Fauci said, there have still been examples of large groups congregating and disregarding critical public health measures.
“We saw visually in clips and in photographs of individuals in the community doing an all or none phenomenon, which is dangerous,” he said.
He also took aim at those “pushing back on scientific data,” calling the attitude “very concerning.”
Though he didn’t name names, some in the Republican contingent, President Donald Trump among them, have been downplaying the severity of the pandemic and accusing those businesses and political leaders who enforce precautions like mask-wearing to be infringing on their freedoms.
Indeed, earlier in Tuesday’s hearing, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) warned listeners not to put too much stock in the opinion of government health experts who “we, like sheep, blindly follow.”
“It’s important to realize that if society meekly submits to an expert and that expert is wrong, a great deal of harm may occur,” he said.
He later implored Fauci for a change in tone: “We need more optimism.”