A top US health expert warned Congress Tuesday that new coronavirus cases could more than double to 100,000 per day if authorities and the public fail to take steps to suppress the pandemic.
Infection protection expert Anthony Fauci, a leading member of President Donald Trump's coronavirus workgroup, said the United States was "in the wrong direction" on the pandemic, demanding that Americans wear masks and avoid crowds following slack behavior that drove new outbreaks.
"I am very busy and not happy with what is happening because we are going in the wrong direction," he testified to a Senate panel.
Alarming spikes in new cases in southern Texas and Florida hotspots drive the daily national total of new cases to over 40,000 a day, and they must be quickly tamped to avoid dangerous waves elsewhere in the country, Fauci stressed.
"Obviously we are not in complete control right now," he said, adding, "I wouldn't be surprised if it goes up to 100,000 a day if it doesn't turn around."
The violent message intensified concerns about America's ability to curb a pandemic that has claimed some 126,000 American lives.
The testimony comes as the United States, the world's hardest-hit nation, with more than 2.6 million infections, was included in the list of 15 countries that the European Union will open its borders from July 1, and when it struggles to ensure a safe reopening of schools in the coming months.
Fauci said he believed some states were "skipping some of the checkpoints" that ensure safe reopening of business and public spaces.
And he also offered a blunt message to the country's young adults who have engaged in "dangerous" behaviors, including gathering at bars, not wearing masks, and not following social distancing guidelines.
"I think we must emphasize the responsibility we have, both as individuals and as part of a community effort to end the epidemic, that we all need to play a part in it," Fauci said.
Trump told 'wear a mask'
Chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, sounded the alarm about rising trajectories in multiple jurisdictions, including hospital admissions in COVID-19 in 12 states, saying it was "critical" that every American take personal responsibility and "embrace the use of face coating. "
But the chairman of the board, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, also pointed his finger at Trump, saying that the president had the power to end politicization of masking which suggests that "if you are for Trump, you do not have a mask. If you oppose Trump, you do that. "
"That's why I've suggested that the president occasionally wear a mask," Alexander said.
"The president has many admirers, they would follow his leadership," he added. "It would help end this political debate."
Trump, who refuses to wear masks at public events and has recently scorned his rivals for wearing them, has signaled he wants to move on from the coronavirus crisis and focus on his election campaign.
Democrats including his election campaign Joe Biden in November have rescued the president because of a lack of leadership in pandemic mediation.
Tuesday's hearing focused in part on whether the United States can adequately prepare for tens of millions of children returning to school in the coming months despite the resounding pandemic that rages in some states.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has advocated that the upcoming school year begin with students who are physically present in schools, arguing that children are less likely to become symptomatic or seriously ill with coronavirus than adults.
Fauci himself said that he feels "very strongly we need to do everything we can to get our kids back to school."
He also said he was "cautiously optimistic" that a vaccine might be ready by the end of the year or early 2021.