Dr Anthony Fauci has warned that the US must significantly reduce its daily average of new coronavirus cases by following simple public health protocols or risk another surge in infections, as the nation’s death toll for Covid-19 has eclipsed the loss of more than 200,000 lives.
“The idea of 200,000 deaths is really very sobering and in some respects stunning,” the nation’s leading infectious disease expert told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta on Tuesday.
“We have the capability to do things that we’ve been speaking about for so long … that could prevent the transmission, and by preventing transmission, ultimately preventing the morbidity and mortality we see," he said.
Guidelines urged by public health officials for months – wearing face coverings, avoiding groups, physically distancing from others – “are not being universally implemented,” he said.
“They sound so simple – we’ve said them so many times – but they’re not universally implemented and employed,” he said. “That to me is really something that is serious.”
Dr Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, has clashed with Donald Trump and his allies over his realistic remarks cast against the president’s false claims and attempts to downplay the gravity and lethal impact of the virus, which he admitted to journalist Bob Woodward in an attempt to prevent nationwide “panic.”
On Monday, the president told supporters at a campaign rally in Ohio that Covid-19 “affects virtually nobody, it’s an amazing thing” and urged schools to reopen.
The president told Woodward during a series of recorded interviews throughout the year that “it’s not just older people, it’s young people, too.”
Asked whether the president should tell that to his supporters, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters on Tuesday that “the president is telling people the truth.”
Pressed on White House plans to memorialise or mourn the staggering loss of life within the last several months, Ms McEnany said “even one life lost” keeps the president “up at night.”
More than 200,000 Americans have died from Covid-19-related illness, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The US death toll accounts for nearly a third of global deaths.
While seven-day rolling case averages in the US have dropped from their highs in April, the number of new daily cases has remained near 40,000 at a rate of 5 per cent positivity, through September, according to Johns Hopkins.
The number of daily deaths averages roughly 800 a day.
Public health officials and medical experts have warned that rolling back mitigation efforts, like reopening restaurants and businesses to pre-pandemic capacities and schools for in-person instruction, will prolong the nation’s battle to combat the outbreak as the number of deaths continue to climb.
“If we don’t get that baseline down sharply to a very low level – and the reason we need it there is because when you have a low baseline and you start to get the blips, as I call them, you don’t want them to turn into surges or rebounds,” Dr Fauci said. “When you have a lot of cases floating around, it’s much more difficult to contain that than if you had a relatively low number, so that when those cases appear you can contain, as opposed to having to jump over into mitigation.”
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has predicted that US deaths are likely to reach 410,000 by the end of 2020.