TUESDAY, June 30, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Congress on Tuesday that COVID-19 infections could climb to 100,000 new cases daily unless ongoing outbreaks are contained.
"We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around. And so I am very concerned," Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified before the U.S. Senate.
Fauci's statement came in response to a question from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) about how many Americans will ultimately die from COVID-19.
Fauci responded that the infection surge happening across the South and West "puts the entire country at risk." Much of that increase is being fueled by young adults testing positive for COVID-19, health experts have said.
"I can't make an accurate prediction, but it is going to be very disturbing," Fauci said. "I will guarantee you that, because when you have an outbreak in one part of the country, even though in other parts of the country they're doing well, they are vulnerable."
Dr. Mark McClellan, former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, noted that young people in particular don't seem to be getting that message.
"I think the federal government is saying a lot of the right things. I'm just not sure it's been easy for people to get their heads around. For young Americans, it's understandably been challenging to be isolated for so long," he said in a statement.
"It's important to realize there are two challenges here for younger people," added McClellan, who is now director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy in Durham, N.C. "They do have serious complications in some cases. A large part of the hospitalizations we're seeing now ¡ some are very serious cases and deaths involving younger Americans. This is a direct health risk," he explained.
"The other thing we've clearly seen is that your behavior is not just about you. We're all in this together," McClellan stressed. "For people who are younger, people who don't look like me, they probably need to be hearing this, not just from government officials but from people who are in their circles, their influencers, people who they respect. What they do with their [social distancing] actions, for the next few months, for the next six months, really is going to save lives if they take these steps."
Fauci and other U.S. health officials also testified about the need to build up confidence in vaccination, in anticipation of a COVID-19 vaccine becoming available in the future.
The federal government has included community engagement programs at the sites of vaccine clinical trials to help build trust in vaccination among participants, Fauci said.
"It is a reality: a lack of trust of authority, a lack of trust in government, and a concern about vaccines in general," Fauci said.
Billions have been poured into Operation Warp Speed, an attempt by the Trump administration to hasten vaccine development and have 300 million doses available by early next year.
However, there are concerns that not enough people will agree to get the vaccine, dashing hopes to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19.
"Public confidence in vaccines is so important," Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said during the Senate hearing. "We have an obligation to use all of our scientific knowledge, regulatory framework to ensure that any vaccine that comes before us, whether for authorization or approval, meets our stringent standards for safety and effectiveness."
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