'It's Going to Get Worse': Federal Disease Expert Warns Congress About Coronavirus

Though President Trump insisted on Tuesday that COVID-19 will “go away,” the government’s top expert on infectious diseases warned lawmakers on Wednesday that not only is the virus not going away anytime soon, the worst is yet to come.

“I can say that we will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Congress. “How much worse it will get will depend on our ability to do two things: to contain the influx of people who are infected coming from the outside, and the ability to contain and mitigate within our own country. But the bottom line is that it’s going to get worse.”

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States have increased ten-fold in the past week. As of Wednesday morning, 1,050 people in the U.S. have tested positive, according to Johns Hopkins. In response to the outbreak, an increasing number of companies have closed their offices, and several high-profile public events have been canceled or postponed, including South by Southwest, Coachella, and campaign rallies by Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. CNN has already announced that Sunday night’s Democratic primary debate will take place without an audience.

Wednesday morning isn’t the first time Dr. Fauci has warned the public about the dangers of COVID-19. He has regularly spoken about the outbreak alongside the president, and has been a guest on several cable news programs. On Tuesday night, he appeared on Hannity to throw cold water on some of the disinformation Fox News has been peddling regarding the virus, particularly that COVID-19 is no more dangerous than the common flu.

“To make sure your viewers get an accurate idea of what goes on, you mentioned seasonal flu,” Fauci said. “The mortality [rate] for seasonal flu is 0.1 [percent]. The mortality [rate] for this is about 2 or 2 and a half percent. It’s probably lower than that. It’s probably closer to 1. But even if it’s 1 it’s 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu. You’ve got to make sure people understand that.”

The following morning before Congress, Fauci stressed the importance of conducting tests to gain a better understanding of how many Americans are infected. “We need to know how many people, to the best of our ability, our infected, as we say, under the radar screen,” he said.

Unfortunately, tests have not been as available in the U.S. as they have been in some other countries working to mitigate the spread of the virus. Part of the problem is that the Centers for Disease Control has refused to adopt an effective test developed by the World Health Organization as the CDC’s own test has experienced reliability issues. Fauci on Wednesday said the CDC is beginning to proactively go out into the community to administer tests, but at this point it’s hard to trust the agency with mitigating the outbreak, especially as it continues to worsen.

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