'We're going in the wrong direction,' warns Fauci

Petra Cahill

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Dr. Anthony Fauci warns the coronavirus pandemic "could get very bad," the father of a Marine killed in Afghanistan in 2019 demands answers amid Russian bounty reports, and why Mississippi finally voted to change its flag.

Here's what we're watching this Wednesday morning.

'We're going in the wrong direction': Fauci warns COVID-19 cases could swell to 100,000 a day

New COVID-19 cases could "go up to 100,000 a day" if Americans continue to ignore guidance on social distancing and face masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned a Senate committee on Tuesday.

The nation's top infectious disease expert did not mince words in his testimony before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions: "I'm very concerned, because it could get very bad," he said.

With the rates of infection spiking across the country, health officials continue to urge everyone to do their part to control the spread by washing hands, maintaining physical distance and wearing masks.

Even Senate Republicans have begun distancing themselves from President Donald Trump on the mask issue.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., pleaded with lawmakers to stop politicizing masks at the start of the Senate hearing.

"Unfortunately, this simple lifesaving practice has become part of a political debate that says: If you're for Trump, you don't wear a mask. If you're against Trump, you do," Alexander said. "The president has millions of admirers. They would follow his lead. It would help end this political debate. The stakes are too high for it to continue."

A national mask mandate could work better than lockdowns — and it could save the U.S. from a 5 percent hit to economic growth — according to a new report from the investment giant Goldman Sachs.

Here are some other developments:

Special report: Generations of unemployment

Daniel Martinez, 28, had been earning enough money to support his wife and their daughter, working at a car dealership in Houston. He was beginning to look at upgrading the family’s small apartment to a house, but he was laid off in April as coronavirus cases began to soar. The dream of a new home vanished.

Martinez is one of more than 20 million Americans who have become unemployed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With the economic future remaining murky, unemployed workers in the United States, from young people beginning their careers to those closer to retirement, are facing a choice to weather the storm and hope their positions return or give up their chosen career altogether if they aren’t able to find new work.

Hear their stories in NBC News' special report: Generations of Unemployment.

Father of Marine killed in 2019 bomb attack wants answers amid reports of Russia bounties

Amid reports of intelligence about possible Russian bounties for Taliban fighters who kill Americans in Afghanistan, the father of a Marine who died in a roadside bomb attack there last year wants answers.

Erik Hendriks' 25-year-old son, Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, was among three Marines who were killed in the bomb attack on a convoy outside Bagram Airfield.

If the reports are true, "that would break my heart," Hendriks said in an interview Tuesday. "It would be horrific."

He's not the only one looking for answers, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are demanding more information since it came out that the White House learned of the Russian bounty plot in early 2019.

Two senior administration officials told NBC News on Monday that the White House does not believe there is a link between the deaths of the three Marines in April 2019 and Russia’s offer to pay bounties.

'A perfect storm': Why Mississippi voted to change its flag after decades of failed attempts

State Rep. Robert Johnson, 61, who grew up in Natchez, Mississippi, remembers seeing Ku Klux Klan members flying Confederate flags while riding horses in the town’s Christmas parades until his early teenage years.

"It is a symbol of terror in the Black community," he told NBC News.

So after Johnson witnessed Sunday’s historic vote in the Mississippi House of Representatives to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, he had one response: “It’s about damn time.”

Gov. Tate Reeves signed the bill Tuesday evening, and now a commission will be assembled to design a new version.

The debate around Mississippi’s state flag is not new, but with the governor’s signature it finally reached a conclusion after many failed attempts to change it. The difference this year, according to Johnson, was the bipartisan leadership by first-term legislators.

Hong Kong police make first arrests under new security law as thousands protest

Police in Hong Kong have made the first arrests under a new national security law, less than 24 hours since it was passed by mainland China.

Amid dramatic scenes, thousands of protesters took to the streets on the 23rd anniversary of the territory's handover from the U.K. to China.

At least seven people were arrested under the new law, police said, which came into force late Tuesday evening.

The move is seen as the most significant change since Hong Kong left British rule in 1997 and by critics as a direct threat to the "one country, two systems" policy that carved out democratic freedoms for Hong Kong.

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A life well lived

Carl Reiner, the American comedy legend, died Monday at 98.

In a rich career that spanned the Eisenhower era to the age of Twitter, Reiner rose from variety show "second banana" to Hollywood giant, earning laurels as a stand-up comic, actor, director, screenwriter, author and producer.

Check out this guide to some of his essential works and where you can stream them.

You could also check out Reiner's own Twitter feed.

Famously active in his old age, he was fortunate enough to appreciate how lucky he had been in life, love and friendship.

"Nothing pleases me more than knowing that I have lived the best life possible by having met & marrying the gifted Estelle (Stella) Lebost — who partnered with me in bringing Rob, Annie & Lucas Reiner into to this needy & evolving world," he tweeted on Saturday. He married his wife in 1943; she died in 2008.

You can also catch a fun portrait of his enduring friendship with Mel Brooks on Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

Brooks offered his own tribute on Twitter saying that "whether he wrote or performed or he was just your best friend — nobody could do it better. He'll be greatly missed."

Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown.

If you have any comments — likes, dislikes — drop me an email at: petra@nbcuni.com

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Thanks, Petra Cahill