The United States could see 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day if Americans fail to take steps to get the virus under control, the government's top infectious diseases expert warned Tuesday,
"We are now having 40,000-plus new cases a day," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in testimony to the Senate health and education committee. "I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around," Fauci said. "I am very concerned because it could get very bad.”
His remarks dovetailed with warnings by health officials that some Americans, particularly younger adults, had let down their guard since the end of mandatory lockdowns put in place in March and April to stop the pandemic.
Many states where the virus is now surging began reopening businesses without having met government health benchmarks for doing so safely.
There are fears the recent spike in cases could become turbo-charged later this week by the July 4 Independence Day celebrations, when Americans traditionally flock to beaches and campgrounds and gather to watch fireworks displays.
Fauci declined to predict a figure for the expected number of deaths in the United States from the pandemic but said it is going to be "disturbing."
More than 126,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and millions have lost their jobs as businesses and schools shut to contain the virus' spread. The economy contracted sharply in the first quarter and is expected to crater in the April-June period.
California, Texas and many other states have reported record increases in new cases of the sometimes deadly illness caused by the novel coronavirus, leading to a sobering reassessment of U.S. efforts to contain the pandemic.
"It's extremely important to have safe and effective vaccines available for everyone in this country," Fauci said.
Scores of vaccine candidates using a variety of approaches are being developed and tested at unprecedented speed.
Fauci, however, cautioned that "there is no guarantee ... we'll have a safe and effective vaccine," and he urged Americans to come together to contain the virus.
COVID-19 cases more than doubled in June in at least 10 U.S. states, including Texas and Florida, a Reuters tally showed. Four U.S. states, namely Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, are accounting for about half of the new cases.
Los Angeles, the second-largest U.S. city, has become a new epicenter in the pandemic as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge there despite California Governor Gavin Newsom's orders requiring bars to close and residents to wear masks in nearly all public spaces.
Los Angeles County reported nearly 3,000 new cases on Monday.
Another hot spot is Texas, one of the states that reopened its economy the earliest. On Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott expanded his order hospitals in certain counties to cancel elective procedures so that bed space remains available for severe COVID-19 cases.
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