U.S. is ‘not in a good place’ as daily coronavirus cases grow, Fauci says

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, testifies during a US Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine Covid-19, focusing on an update on the federal response in Washington, DC, on September 23, 2020.

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The United States is “not in a good place” as colder months loom and the number of newly reported coronavirus cases continues to swell beyond 40,000 people every day, White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday. 

Covid-19 cases were growing by 5% or more, based on a weekly average to smooth out daily reporting, in 26 states as of Sunday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Montana, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming reached record-high averages. 

Cases grew by nearly 9% nationwide compared with a week ago, moving just above 44,300 new cases on average as of Sunday, according to Hopkins data. 

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said for weeks that the U.S. is reporting an “unacceptably high” number of new coronavirus cases every day. The country should aim for daily new cases below 10,000, not around 40,000 as it currently stands, he said. 

“There are states that are starting to show an uptick in cases and even some increase in hospitalizations in some states,” Fauci told ABC’s “Good Morning America” in an interview aired on Monday. 

“And I hope not, but we very might well start seeing increases in deaths,” Fauci said. “That’s really something that I had discussed some time ago as something you don’t want to be in a position like that as the weather starts getting cold.”

The coronavirus has killed nearly 1 million people worldwide, a grisly milestone in the pandemic that arose late last year. The U.S. accounts for roughly 20% of the world’s Covid-19 deaths but less than 5% of the global population, according to Hopkins data. 

“The numbers globally are very serious,” Fauci said. 

Cases grow in Midwest and West 

Wisconsin reported a record 2,817 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, according to Hopkins data. The state has reported four consecutive days of more than 2,000 new Covid-19 cases as of Sunday — a first for Wisconsin since the beginning of the pandemic. 

“Wisconsin is now experiencing unprecedented, near-exponential growth of the number of Covid-19 cases in our state,” Gov. Tony Evers said in a video posted on Twitter Friday, adding that the spike has been driven by people between the ages of 18 and 24.  

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced last week that the state would roll back reopenings in Provo and Orem cities, just south of Salt Lake City, as the area continues to report “discouraging trends” in cases. Utah reported a record 1,411 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, according to Hopkins data. 

“This is the first time we’ve rolled backwards,” Herbert said during a press briefing on Tuesday. 

Sun Belt cases decline 

Meanwhile, coronavirus outbreaks that ripped across America’s Sun Belt states over the summer months continue to subside.

New coronavirus cases, based on a weekly average, dropped nearly 15% compared with a week ago in Florida and more than 40% in Arizona as of Sunday, according to a CNBC analysis of Hopkins data. California also reported a modest decline in coronavirus cases. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Friday that he would lift restrictions on businesses statewide intended to curb the coronavirus’ spread. Bars and restaurants would be allowed to operate at full capacity.

DeSantis said local officials can implement restrictions, but they can’t be too burdensome and they must justify the restrictions to the state. 

“That is very concerning to me,” Fauci told GMA on Monday in regards to Florida’s reopening. “That is something we really need to be careful about because when you’re dealing with community spread and you have the kind of congregate setting where people get together, particularly without masks, you’re really asking for trouble.”

Top U.S. health officials have warned that a majority of the U.S. population remains susceptible to the coronavirus, dispelling theories of “herd immunity.” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield told lawmakers last week that more than 90% of the nation’s population remains vulnerable to infection. 

— CNBC’s Will Feuer contributed to this report. 

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