The United States is “facing a whole lot of trouble” as coronavirus cases continue to surge across the country heading into the cold winter months, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told CNBC on Monday.
The U.S. reported more than 44,600 new cases on Sunday and the seven-day average rose to over 49,200 new cases per day, up more than 14% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Average daily cases were up by more than 5% in 36 states and the District of Columbia, CNBC’s analysis shows.
Similarly, the number of people currently hospitalized with Covid-19 rose by at least 5% in 36 states, according to CNBC’s analysis of data from the Covid Tracking Project, a volunteer project founded by journalists at The Atlantic magazine.
“That’s a bad place to be when you’re going into the cooler weather of the fall and the colder weather of the winter,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview on The News with Shepard Smith. “We’re in a bad place. Now we’ve got to turn this around.”
Fauci, who also serves on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, added that the percent of tests coming back positive, or the test-positivity rate, is on the rise across states in the Midwest and Northwest. That figure is seen as an early indicator of a growing outbreak that will lead to “more cases, and ultimately more hospitalizations, and ultimately more death,” Fauci said.
Adjusted for population, many of the states with the most new infections are in the Midwest and Northwest. The Dakotas, Montana and Wisconsin reported the most new cases per capita in the country, according to CNBC’s analysis of Hopkins data.
The rising cases and the indications of growing outbreaks across much of the country are particularly troubling as the weather turns colder in the northern parts of the U.S. During the colder months, people are expected to spend more time indoors and it could be the “perfect setup for an acceleration of respiratory borne diseases,” Fauci added.
Fauci said there are five basic public health protocols that “could certainly turn around the spikes that we see and can prevent new spikes from occurring.” He said universal mask use, maintaining of physical distance, avoiding crowds, doing more things outdoors and frequently washing hands would help stop the spread of the virus.
“I have a great deal of faith in the American people and their ability to realize what we’re facing is a significant problem,” Fauci said. “We’re talking about using public health measures as a vehicle or a gateway to keeping the country open, to keeping the economy going. It is not an obstacle.”
Fauci, who recently said he did not agree to be featured in an advertisement for the Trump campaign in which he appears to be touting the president’s handling of the pandemic, added that he intends to remain in his position to see the pandemic through, regardless of who wins the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election.
“This is too important a problem. I’ve devoted my entire professional life to fighting infectious diseases. This is an outbreak of historic proportions, the likes of which we have not seen in 102 years,” Fauci said. “I’m not going to walk away from this outbreak no matter who’s the president.”