Fauci says the outbreak of coronavirus in the United States “is going to be very disturbing”, could exceed 100,000 cases per day

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, adjusts a protective mask for the Washington Nationals while arriving at a hearing for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in Washington, DC, USA. Tuesday June 30, 2020.

Al Drago | Bloomberg | fake pictures

The United States “is not in full control” of the coronavirus pandemic, and new daily cases could top 100,000 new infections per day if the outbreak continues at its current rate, White House health adviser Dr Anthony Fauci.

The country is now reporting nearly 40,000 new cases of coronavirus each day, almost double the approximately 22,800 in mid-May, largely due to outbreaks in various southern and western states. Fauci said that about 50% of all new cases come from four states: Florida, California, Texas and Arizona.

“I can’t make an accurate prediction, but it’s going to be very disturbing,” Fauci told senators at a hearing held by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “We now have over 40,000 new cases a day. I wouldn’t be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this doesn’t change, and that’s why I’m very concerned.”

The number of new cases reported each day in the US now exceeds April, when the virus shook Washington state and parts of the Northeast, especially the New York City metropolitan area.

The United States averaged 39,750 new cases per day for the past seven days starting Monday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That average has increased by more than 40% compared to a week ago. As of Tuesday morning, the seven-day average of daily reported new cases increased by more than 5% week-to-week in 40 states, according to the data.

Fauci’s comments came in response to a question from Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, who asked where the United States is headed in the right direction in terms of controlling the outbreak.

“Well, I think the numbers speak for themselves,” said Fauci. “I am very concerned and I am not satisfied with what is happening because we are going in the wrong direction if we look at the curves of the new cases, so we really have to do something about it and we have to do it quickly.”

Outbreaks in states like Florida and Texas also threaten to disrupt the progress states like New York and New Jersey have made so far to reduce the outbreak in the Northeast, Fauci said. The tri-state region of New York announced last week that they would require 14-day quarantines for any traveler from states with rapidly expanding outbreaks. However, Fauci said that increased infection in any part of the country threatens to spread everywhere.

“I guarantee it because when you have an outbreak in which part of the country, although in other parts of the country they are fine, they are vulnerable,” Fauci said. “I made it very clear last week at a press conference. We cannot focus only on those areas that are having an increase, it puts the entire country at risk.”

The outbreaks could be driven in part by states that reopened too soon and could have ignored some of the federal guidance aimed at helping states to reopen safely, Fauci said.

“We have to make sure that when states start trying to reopen, they have to follow the guidelines that have been set very carefully regarding checkpoints,” Fauci said Tuesday morning. He added that some states may be “going too fast” with respect to reopening and “skipping some of the checkpoints.”

While much of the country was still closed in April, the White House released a guide to help states reopen businesses and parts of society to try to prevent a major resurgence of the virus. The guideline included recommendations such as waiting to reopen until new daily cases steadily decline for 14 days, increasing testing and contact tracing, and increasing hospital capacity.

However, orientation was not mandatory and several of the first and most aggressive states to reopen have seen new daily cases spiral into full outbreaks, prompting officials to pause or reverse reopening efforts. Fauci added that not only did states reopen early with outbreaks, which could indicate that the public is ignoring public health precautions, such as wearing masks and physical distancing.

Even in states where governors and mayors “did the right thing with the right recommendations, we saw clips and photos visually of people in the community doing an all-or-nothing phenomenon, which is dangerous,” he said. “For all or nothing, I mean, being locked up or open in a way where you see people in bars who don’t wear masks, don’t avoid crowds, don’t pay attention to physical distance.”

There is a need to address the “noncompliance with recommendations” that public health officials and scientists have made in response to the pandemic, Fauci said. He urged people to follow the guidelines, practice physical distancing, and wear a mask.

“I think the attitude of rejecting authority and rejecting scientific data is very concerning,” Fauci said. “We are in the midst of a catastrophic outbreak and we really need to be guided by scientific principles.”

Fauci was responding to a question from Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, who said “we don’t have enough evidence and we don’t have enough contact trackers.”

Fauci previously said that some states are not conducting enough tests to determine the size of the outbreak they are dealing with and that contact search efforts in the United States “are not going well.”

Contact tracing occurs when trained personnel contact infected individuals to investigate how they obtained Covid-19 and to whom they might have passed it. Along with widespread testing and the ability to isolate potentially infectious people, screening is a former public health intervention that is now increasing on an unprecedented scale.

“Saying you’re going to go out there and identify, contact, track and isolate, that doesn’t mean anything until you do,” Fauci told CNBC’s Meg Tirrell last week. “Don’t check the box that you did, but actually do it. Get people on the ground. Not on the phone. When you identify someone, have a place to put them out of social interaction.”

– CNBC’s Jasmine Kim and Berkeley Lovelace Jr. contributed to this report.