Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday said the spikes in coronavirus cases in many states were “the worst” the US had seen — and warned of “an even greater outbreak ahead.”
“What we have seen over the last several days is a spike in cases that are well beyond the worst spikes that we have seen,” Fauci told the BBC’s Radio 4.
“That is not good news. We’ve got to get that under control, or we risk an even greater outbreak in the United States,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The forecast came as the number of new cases of coronavirus in the US hit a record of more than 50,000 on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University, which reported that there were now 2,686,480 confirmed cases in the country and more than 128,000 deaths.
Florida shattered records Thursday when it reported over 10,000 new coronavirus cases, the biggest one-day increase in the state since the pandemic started.
Florida, with 21 million residents, has reported more new daily coronavirus cases than any European country had at the height of their outbreaks.
To contain the outbreak, the Sunshine State has closed bars and some beaches, but GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis has resisted requiring masks in public statewide or reimposing a lockdown.
Outbreaks in Texas, California, Florida and Arizona have seen the US break records and send cases rising at rates not seen since April.
The top epidemiologist on President Trump’s coronavirus task force also blamed much of the recent spikes on young people ignoring social distancing guidelines in states that reopened.
“We need to engender some responsibility in people, particularly in the younger people,” he told the program.
Fauci, who told lawmakers Tuesday that the US could soon see as many as 100,000 new cases a day, if social distancing and mask wearing are not enforced, said other countries did a better job at containing the virus.
“We got hit very badly, worse than any country, in regards to the number of cases and the number of deaths,” he said.
“Between the European Union, the UK and others, how they’ve handled the outbreak, they’ve had big spikes and then it brought it down almost to baseline, or even to baseline in some countries. They will be having additional infections, but at least they got it down to a reasonable baseline. The situation in the United States has been more problematic,” he said.
“We never got things down to baseline where so many countries in Europe and the UK and other countries did — they closed down to the tune of about 97 percent lockdown,” Fauci continued.
“In the United States, even in the most strict lockdown, only about 50 percent of the country was locked down. That allowed the perpetuation of the outbreak that we never did get under very good control.
“The problem we’re facing now is, in an attempt to so-called reopen or open the government and get it back to some form of normality, we’re seeing very disturbing spikes in different individual states in the United States, particularly, most recently, Florida, Arizona, Texas and California, some of which are really big states with high populations,” he said.
Intensive care units in Houston were at 102 percent of capacity on Wednesday, while Arizona’s were at 89 percent of capacity on Thursday.