National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned that the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is far from over. Fauci made the warning as some of the worst-hit states have started reopening their economies.
“In a period of four months, it has devastated the whole world,” Fauci said to executives at a video conference hosted by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization. “And it isn’t over yet.”
But Dr. Fauci is no longer trusted by most of America, as his often-contradictory information has led to horrible decisions about the durations of lockdowns which have caused severe economic damage across the nation.
As of reporting time, the coronavirus has infected 7,238,611 people and left 411,277 dead, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Many countries, including the U.S. where almost 2 million people have been infected, are now relaxing restrictions despite infection rates that continue to rise in some areas.
“That’s millions and millions of infections worldwide. And it isn’t over yet. And it’s condensed in a very, very small time frame,” said Fauci.
In the videotaped discussion, Fauci said that he had known that an outbreak like the current pandemic was a possibility. However, the speed of which the coronavirus spread throughout the world caught him by surprise.
According to Fauci, an efficiently transmitted disease would usually take six months to a year to spread worldwide. The coronavirus, however, took “about a month.” He attributed the rapid spread both to the contagiousness of the virus, as well as to extensive world travel by people infected by the virus.
“It’s a testimony to not only the extraordinary capability of transmission but of the extraordinary travel capability we have,” he said. “I mean, it started in a very well-defined place in a city in China called Wuhan. And China is a big country. A lot of people travel all over the world. They travel to the United States. They travel to Europe.”
Fauci also made comparisons between the coronavirus and other recent public health crises, stating that the former differed significantly from Ebola and HIV.
“I mean, Ebola was scary. But Ebola would never be easily transmitted in a global way,” he explained. “HIV, as important as it is, was drawn out over an extended period of time. I mean, I think the ultimate impact of AIDS almost certainly will be greater than anything we’re talking about now.”
In regards to how the disease works and how it attacks the body, Fauci conceded that much of what experts know is “a work in progress.”
Fauci, who spent much of his career studying HIV, said that AIDS – the disease caused by the virus – is “really simple compared to what’s going on with COVID-19.” He noted that the latter has a broader range of severity, from having no symptoms at all to critical illness and death. In between, patients have to deal with intense immune response, lung damage and even clotting disorders that can cause strokes even in young people. In addition, the virus also causes a separate inflammatory syndrome causing severe illness in children.
“We’re still at the beginning of really understanding,” he said.
Fauci’s warnings come after some states reported increases in coronavirus cases after having reopened.
On Monday, health officials in Texas, one of the first states to reopen, reported an increase in cases and a record-setting 1,953 hospitalizations due to the coronavirus. Before this, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the state had hovered between 1,400 and 1,800.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott stated most of the new cases came from coronavirus “hotspots” where testing had been ramped up.
Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pointed to surges in coronavirus cases other states while urging New Yorkers to continue to take precautions as he slowly opened the state up.
“We know as a fact that reopening other states we’re seeing significant problems,” he said Tuesday. “Twelve states that reopened are now seeing spikes. This is a very real possibility. Countries across the globe that reopened are seeing spikes.”
Cuomo specifically pointed to Florida, which saw a resurgence of the virus since reopening. On June 6, the state reported about 1,400 new confirmed coronavirus cases, the most ever recorded in a single day since the state started tracking data on the outbreak in March.
Arizona too has seen a surge in cases. On June 1, the count of daily new cases in the state went past 1,000 cases for the first time, before hitting 1,168 the next day.
Nationally, confirmed cases have been trending upward since Memorial Day. While cases aren’t spiking on a national level, data from Johns Hopkins shows that they’re hovering at around 20,000 confirmed cases per day.