Fauci: US Could See “Further Suffering, Death” If Coronavirus Isn’t Controlled
By Staff, Agencies
The US has topped 4.2 million infections and 148,000 deaths since the pandemic began, and a leading expert says thousands more Americans could lose their lives in the coming months.
"If you look at the deaths as they're occurring right now – about 1,000 per day – unless we get our arms around this and get it suppressed, we are going to have further suffering and further death," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert. "That's the reason why, as I've often said many, many times, there are things that we can do right now in the absence of a vaccine that can turn us around," he added.
While there's still no guarantee the vaccines being developed will prove effective, at least one vaccine trial in the US has entered its third phase. In the meantime, health officials are urging states to implement stricter measures after weeks of surges in new cases following re-openings that mostly began in May. Nationwide, there have been more than 1,000 deaths five times in the past week. And in hospitals throughout several states, doctors report more incoming patients and maxed out ICUs.
While US President Donald Trump said Monday some governors should be quicker about reopening states, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said over the weekend there are states showing a concerning increase in positivity rates and new cases. Those states include Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. Health experts, she said, recommending "100% of people" wear masks in all indoor public places and that social and indoor gatherings are limited to less than 10 people.
Across the US, at least 27 states hit a pause or rolled back those reopening plans and imposed new restrictions. More than 40 states have some kind of mask requirement in place.
In some places, the efforts seem to be working. In states including Arizona, Texas and Florida, which reopened without effective safety protocols and saw rapid case spread since June, new cases have flattened or slightly decreased recently. But that doesn't mean the states are out of the woods just yet, and it's still too early to tell how long the trend will last.
Birx said that among the states officials are tracking, there seems to be a "household" pattern of infections that starts with young people, usually less than 30 years old. Those residents, who are usually asymptomatic, then transmit the virus to their parents who then transmit it to other, older residents, she said.
In Mississippi, about 80% of surveyed coronavirus patients said they had attended a social gathering, including funerals and birthday parties, where people weren't adhering to social distancing. And in New Jersey, health officials said they have seen multiple outbreaks arising from gatherings of young people.
To stop those infections, states have cracked down on congregate settings and pleaded with younger groups to heed guidelines including wearing masks and social distancing.
Despite new restrictions, some local leaders have voiced their opposition to the mandates and others – like sheriffs – have said they won't be enforcing the rules.
But in Miami and New York, officials have doubled down on enforcement.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday the state had issued at least 132 violations over the weekend to bars and restaurants for not following coronavirus-related regulations. Most of them were in New York City, Cuomo said.
Officials are now using precautions like face masks and social distancing to curb the spread of the virus, but soon the country may have even more help.
Vaccine maker Moderna started its final trial of a coronavirus vaccine in the US Monday, and volunteers from dozens of sites across the country will participate in the study, Fauci said Monday.
"There are 89 sites distributed throughout the country," Fauci said. "They are widely distributed as a matter of fact in areas where there is clearly as of right now active infection going on."
There are expected to be 30,000 adult volunteers in the Phase 3 trial. The first patient was dosed at a site in Savannah, Georgia, on Monday.
"I think we are going to get a good sampling of the activity of virus transmission that's currently going on in the country."
Fauci said that a vaccine likely won't be widely available to people in the US until "several months" into 2021.
And this part of the US trial can't be sped up, a vaccine expert said Monday, as reported by CNN.
"Typically vaccine development programs take 15 years on average. This vaccine development program is probably going to take a year and a half," said Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center and professor of pediatrics at the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.