Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, arrives to testify before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, D.C., July 31, 2020.
Kevin Dietsch | Pool | Reuters
White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday that U.S. officials are beginning to see early signs of a new coronavirus surge in some states.
The rate of coronavirus tests that come back positive in some states outside of the southern region of the nation is beginning to increase, Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association. It’s the same “insidious” rise that the Sun Belt region saw a month or so ago before cases surged, he said.
Fauci didn’t name the states, but last week he warned about a potential increase in Covid-19 cases brewing in states like Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana, which have reported an uptick in the so-called positivity rate, or the percentage of tests that are positive.
He said states should take a “serious” reexamination of where they are in the process of reopening. “You may need to pause, you may need to drop back a little bit. I don’t think you necessarily have to revert to go all the way back to reclosing,” he said Monday.
Fauci also urged the public to wear masks and avoid crowds, especially in bars and other indoor establishments.
“Outdoor is always better than indoor if you want to do any kind of function,” he said. “It’s in our hands, as I’ve said so many times. You have the dynamics of the virus if left to its own devices is going to keep resurging. The only way to stop it by what we do … as a countermeasure against it.”
His comments came as coronavirus outbreaks that have torn through Sun Belt states such as California, Florida, Texas and Arizona for weeks have started to decline. Across the nation, daily new Covid-19 cases have dropped in recent days, driving the seven-day average of new cases down more than 5% compared with a week ago, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The comments also came a day after Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said that the U.S. is “in a new phase” of battling against the pandemic as the virus is more widespread in both rural and urban regions.
Last week, Fauci said the coronavirus is so contagious it won’t likely ever completely go away, contradicting statements made by President Donald Trump who has repeatedly said Covid-19 will eventually vanish.
“I do not believe it would disappear because it’s such a highly transmissible virus,” Fauci told a House Select Subcommittee hearing Friday on containing the outbreak.
While the virus will not disappear, Fauci has previously said it’s possible world leaders and public health officials could work to bring the pandemic down to “low levels.” He said the U.S. has so many cases because some states did not shut down early in the outbreak while others reopened too soon.
“In the attempt to reopen in some situations states did not abide strictly by the guidelines that the task force and the White House has put out. And others that even did abide by it, the people in the state actually were congregating in crowds and not wearing masks,” he said Friday.
Fauci said Monday that “we are all in this together,” adding that officials will continue to urge Americans to wear masks.
The Trump administration made a big push last month for the public to use face masks after the president resisted wearing them for months.
“I’m very pleased to see that the president is wearing a mask more now,” Fauci said. “The vice president, and I know I’m with him a fair amount, wears a mask when he goes out and is in a situation where masks are needed. We need more of that consistency.”