With the number of new confirmed coronavirus cases each day in the United States about double the levels of a month ago, the country’s top infectious disease expert is calling the state of the outbreak “really not good.”
In an online conference call Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cited the spike in cases after U.S. states lifted many restrictions put in place to try to stop the spread of the disease.
He compared the situation to what is happening in Europe, where countries have seen some increases in cases following reopenings, but those occurred after a huge drop from the levels seen at the peak of the outbreak.
“We went up, never came down to baseline, and now we're surging back up. So it's a serious situation that we have to address immediately,” Fauci said.
The number of confirmed cases has been rising in about 40 of the 50 U.S. states, with a higher percentage of tests coming back positive and hospital systems warning of beds filling up.
In a letter Monday, three top U.S. medical organizations – the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association and American Hospital Association – urged Americans to wear masks, observe social distancing guidelines and wash their hands.
The groups called the coronavirus outbreak “the worst public health crisis in generations” and said the preventive steps backed by health officials months ago “were too quickly abandoned.”
“We are not powerless in this public health crisis, and we can defeat it in the same way we defeated previous threats to public health — by allowing science and evidence to shape our decisions and inform our actions,” the letter said.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows reiterated Monday in an interview with the cable news network Fox News that the Trump administration is leaving decisions on coronavirus restrictions up to state and local leaders instead of the federal government.
“When we look at masks and the wearing of masks, that's done on a location basis, when you can’t have social distancing, but certainly a national mandate is not in order,” Meadows said. “We’re allowing governors and mayors to weigh in on that.”
In Florida, one of the states seeing a spike with about 10,000 new daily cases in recent days, officials in the largest county ordered restaurants and gyms to close once again. Beaches, which were closed for the July 4 holiday weekend, are being allowed to reopen Tuesday.
Arizona reversed some of its lifting of restrictions as cases there spiked last week, and on Monday the Department of Health Services reported the state’s total case count had surpassed 100,000. More than 62,000 of the confirmed cases involved people younger than 44 years old.
The governor of West Virginia responded to a 30% increase in cases during the past week with an order Monday requiring everyone over the age of 9 to wear a mask indoors when social distancing is not possible.
Nationwide, the United States has more than 2.9 million confirmed cases with 130,000 deaths, both figures by far the highest in the world.