The White House’s top expert on infectious diseases has warned the US is experiencing a “disturbing surge” in coronavirus cases.
Dr Anthony Fauci, whose comments on COVID-19 have often contradicted those of President Donald Trump since the pandemic began, offered the worrying assessment of America’s outbreak during a House committee session.
Giving evidence on Tuesday, Dr Fauci highlighted recent spikes in Republican-led states such as Florida and Texas, which are pressing ahead with the reopening of business despite reporting thousands of cases per day.
Dr Fauci told the House Energy & Commerce Committee that an increase in community transmission was partly to blame for the increase in coronavirus cases, which have begun to come down sharply in other states.
As part of his testimony, Dr Fauci heaped praise on New York, which has managed to bring down the number of coronavirus infections after being among the worst-hit states back in March and April.
But the national picture remains concerning, Dr Fauci said, with figures tracked by Johns Hopkins University showing that more than 2.3 million cases have now been recorded – the most of any country in the world.
The US has also recorded more deaths of people with COVID-19 than anywhere else at least 120,000, which is now comfortably more than half of the total Dr Fauci predicted back in March.
Dr Fauci also appeared to break rank with Mr Trump again on Tuesday when he said more testing would be key to tackling the virus moving forward.
Asked if he had been asked to slow down testing, which Mr Trump appeared to suggest as a potential solution to reducing the number of cases during a campaign rally on Saturday, Dr Fauci said: “It’s the opposite, we’re going to be doing more testing, not less.”
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Dr Fauci – who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and head of the White House’s coronavirus taskforce – was more positive on the prospect of a vaccine for COVID-19.
He said he was “cautiously optimistic” and that it was a case of “when and not if” a solution would emerge.
His comments on Tuesday formed part of an evidence session on Capitol Hill.
Also present were the heads of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, and a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Dr Fauci has previously appeared to be at odds with Mr Trump on the issue of reopening America’s economy and whether the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine could be an effective treatment for coronavirus.