Fauci says US could see 100,000 COVID-19 cases a day if surge continues

July 1, 2020

Testifying to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee about safe business and school reopenings, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that the United States could see a daily COVID-19 case count of 100,000 if the current surge of cases continues. 

"We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day," Fauci said. "I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around. And so, I am very concerned." 

Fauci testified alongside Robert Redfield, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Stephen Hahn, MD, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner; and Admiral Brett Giroir, MD, assistant secretary for health. 

Redfield said hospitalization rates have been going up in 12 states, and the daily death toll is now rising in Arizona. According to an analysis by the Washington Post, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, South Carolina, Montana, Georgia, and California hospitalization seven-day averages are up at least 25% from last week. 

Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, publisher of CIDRAP News, agreed it was possible the US could see 100,000 cases per day. 

"At this point, we are in Nowhere Land; we don't know what will happen," he said. "How the country will respond in the next 7 to 10 days will have an impact. But there are going to be lots and lots of cases, and we as a country have to make a decision of what we are going to do to get through the rest of the pandemic." 

Osterholm said it’s currently estimated that 7% or 8% of the US population has been infected with the novel coronavirus, and any effect of herd immunity would not be seen until that number approaches 50% to 70%. 

"Are we going to try to minimize as many infections as possible until we get a vaccine? Or are we going to say we have to accept these infections, and we can't lock down the economy and damage society? If that’s the case, how do we avoid overrunning hospitals and the painful impact this will have on healthcare workers?" he asked. 

Osterholm said his nightmare is that healthcare workers will continue to not have sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment during a continued surge. According to a new investigation from Kaiser Health News, health workers have filed more than 4,000 complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Kaiser said at least 35 of the workers died of the virus after filing complaints with OSHA, and none of the complaints led to a citation or fine. 

Fauci also again said that though he is cautiously optimistic, there is no guarantee the US will have a safe and effective vaccine within the next year. 

CIDRAP has the report

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