WASHINGTON — While testifying to Congress on Wednesday, Anthony Fauci, MD, of the National Institutes of Health offered a pithy but troubling rebuttal to President Trump’s optimistic outlook on the coronavirus outbreak.
“Things will get worse than they are right now’’ if the disease is not contained, Fauci said. He warned that “many, many millions” could be infected with the virus unless the government handles the situation correctly.
The remarks came as the United States surpassed 1,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. Twenty-nine people have died, most of them in Washington state.
Fauci’s remarks came in response to a simple question from Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who chairs the House Oversight Committee. The committee was holding a hearing on the coronavirus response, as various committees have done in the past few months.
“Is the worst yet to come, Dr. Fauci?" asked Maloney.
“Yes, it is,” came the blunt answer from Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH and is renowned for his role in fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic that ravaged the United States in the 1980s and ’90s.
His unvarnished assessment stands in stark contrast to Trump’s view that the coronavirus is little more than a passing inconvenience that will dissipate with spring’s coming warm weather.
“Just stay calm,” Trump said on Tuesday. “It will go away. It’s really working out.”
In a statement to Yahoo News, White House spokesman Judd Deere said the virus “is a serious situation that is changing hourly, and the President has been leading from the very beginning to protect the health and safety of the American people. The President has also been very clear that the Vice President and the Coronavirus Task Force are doing an incredible job leading the whole-of-government approach in close coordination with the state and local leaders.”
Fauci said that as the disease begins to spread faster, public health officials’ ability to “effectively and efficiently” stop it will decrease.
“We will see more cases,” Fauci said. He said the severity of the outbreak will depend on stemming the influx of infected patients from other countries while containing the spread of the disease within the borders of the United States.
“Bottom line,” he told Maloney, “it’s going to get worse.”
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