Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, says the United States is still in its first wave of the coronavirus pandemic – a warning that comes as states reopen despite rising case numbers.
“People keep talking about a second wave,” Fauci said in an interview Tuesday with The Wall Street Journal. “We’re still in a first wave.”
At least 19 states have seen new COVID-19 cases go up in the last two weeks, and six states on Tuesday reported record-high single-day jumps in new cases, CBS News’ Manuel Bojorquez reported.
Florida reported 2,783 new cases. Texas reported 2,622, and Arizona reported a one-day jump of 2,392 new cases. Oklahoma, Oregon and Nevada also reported their highest single-day spikes in cases yet.
More than 117,000 people in the United States have died due to the coronavirus. According to the latest model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, a research institute once utilized by the White House for coronavirus projections, another 85,000 people or so could die because of the virus by October 1, totaling more than 200,000 fatalities.
The prediction went up by more than 30,000 since last week.
On Monday, President Trump said the spike in cases is due to an increase in testing nationwide. “If we stopped testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any,” he said during a White House roundtable on “Fighting for America’s Seniors.”
“Again, our testing is so far advanced. It’s so much bigger and better than any other country, that we’re going to have more cases. We’re always going to have more cases,” he said, adding, “… that’s probably the downside of having good testing is you find a lot of cases that other countries, who don’t even test, don’t have. If you don’t test, you don’t have any cases.”
But Fauci told the Journal on Tuesday that the rise in cases “cannot be explained by increased testing.”
IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray said in a June 11 press briefing that the institute accounted for an increase in testing when creating their new projection.
“We now try to very extensively disentangle the trend in cases that may be partly driven by increased testing from the underlying trend in the epidemic,” he said. According to the IHME, the main reasons for the projected increase are “rising mobility and premature relaxation of social distancing in some states.”
Fauci echoed the institute’s reasoning, telling the Journal it is still “very risky” for people to congregate in crowded places when “the location they are indicates they shouldn’t be doing that.”
“Clearly there were states who, left to their own decision about (reopening), went ahead and opened to a varying degree, maybe even — I wouldn’t say too soon — but certainly before they got to the benchmarks that they needed to get,” he told NPR on Tuesday.
Fauci added that even in states that have followed federal guidelines for reopening, individuals may not be adhering to the phase their state or region is officially in.
“A state may be saying: ‘OK, we are in this particular stage of the reopening.’ But then you might find people within the state who are actually not really adhering to the kinds of structured type of guidelines that belong to the phase that they’re in,” he said. “And that’s the thing that’s troublesome, because that clearly is increasing the risk, and likely explaining some of the upticks that you’re seeing.”