U.S. health official Fauci on coronavirus: “Worst is yet to come” as infections, deaths rise
03/15/2020 // JD Heyes // Views

A top health official told a congressional committee on Wednesday that the number of Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) patients in the United States was only going to rise and that, essentially, we haven’t seen anything yet.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned lawmakers that the number of virus cases in the U.S. would continue to grow because containment methods and other measures like contact tracing have failed to prevent “community spread” of the disease.

After Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, criticized the government’s response to testing, comparing low U.S. figures to that of South Korea, she asked Fauci, “Is the worst yet to come?”

“Yes, it is,” he responded.  

Asked to elaborate, he continued: “Whenever you have an outbreak, you can start seeing community spread, which means by definition that you don’t know what the index case is, and the way you can approach it is by contact tracing. … Whenever you look at the history of outbreaks, what you see now in an uncontained way — and although we are containing it in some respects — we keep getting people that are coming in from the country that are travel-related, we’ve seen that in many of the states that are now involved.”

Thus, one of the ways to limit the virus’ spread is to limit the amount of potentially infected people from getting into the country.

“So I can say we will see more cases, and things will get worse than they are right now,” he continued. “How much worse they will get will depend on our ability to do two things: To contain the influx of people who are infected coming from the outside, and the ability to contain and mitigate within our country. 



Fauci’s comments come as Wednesday began with about 1,000 known cases and 31 deaths, according to this real-time tracking website; as of this writing six hours later, the number of cases had risen to more 1,276 and 37 deaths — not huge numbers but again, as Fauci noted, we don’t know yet what the ceiling is going to be. (Related: US coronavirus infections just surpassed 1,000 as global death rate reaches 6% which is 60 times higher than the seasonal flu.)

‘Burden of confronting outbreak shifting to local communities’ 

Meanwhile, as far as coronavirus vaccine, Fauci noted that it’ll be at least a year-and-a-half before one is available. But that said, health officials are working now to increase virus testing in the U.S.

“We need to know how many people … are infected, as we say, under the radar screen,” he added.

NPR noted further: 

Local and state health officials, desperate to stop the coronavirus from spreading in hard-hit areas, are enacting bans on public gatherings, closing schools and encouraging people to avoid close contact with others. Their goal is to slow down the virus as they work concurrently to contain it.

“As we experience the growing community spread in the United States, the burden of confronting this outbreak is shifting to states and local health professionals on the front lines," the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, told lawmakers Wednesday. 

He added that at present, the U.S. has the capacity to test 75,000 people. 

Most cases are thus far concentrated on the two coasts: Washington state (273); New York (176); and California (157). Most coronavirus deaths have occurred in Washington, but deaths have also been recorded in California, Florida, New Jersey, and South Dakota.

The World Health Organization, which formally declared the outbreak a pandemic as Fauci was testifying, notes that COVID-19 infections will, in the vast majority of cases, be mild. But, WHO warns the virus can certainly make some people very ill, while in the rarest cases it can kill. 

People at risk of death are the same as those who are more susceptible to dying from influenza; The elderly, the very young, and people with preexisting conditions, WHO and the CDC note.

Sources include:



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