CDC official says United States has ‘way too much virus’ to contain

Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spoke frankly on the United States’ dire COVID-19 situation, saying that “we are not even close to being over this.”

In an livestreamed Monday interview with Howard Bauchner, M.D. of the JAMA network, Schuchat highlighted the “wishful thinking and worrisome factors” from the past week regarding the COVID-19 situation in the United States, as well as the country’s efforts and ability to address the pandemic.

“What is clearly discouraging is we’re not at a point where there is so little virus being spread that it’s going to be easy to snuff out,” Schuchat said. 

Multiple U.S. states are reporting drastic surges in new confirmed COVID-19 cases after reopening, with the country still serving as the pandemic’s epicenter with over 2.6 million confirmed cases.

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“We’re not in a situation of New Zealand or Singapore or Korea where a new case is rapidly identified and all the contacts are traced and people are isolated who were sick and people who were exposed are quarantined and they can keep things under control, we have way too much virus across the country for that right now, it’s very discouraging,” Schuchat said.

Schuchat previously gave congressional testimony on the COVID-19 pandemic in March, where she spoke on the U.S. coronavirus capacity being “relatively small.”

Schuchat’s comments echo the recent sentiments expressed by U.S. health leaders like Dr. Anthony Fauci and World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus over the worrisome trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Alongside other U.S. health leaders, Fauci testified before Congress on Tuesday, saying that he wouldn’t be surprised to see the U.S. hit 100,000 new coronavirus cases per day in the near future. Fauci also expressed concern in a recent interview that widespread vaccine availability still may not quell the virus’ spread, due to anti-vaxxers and other groups who refuse to take it.

“That’s one of the reasons why we have to make sure we engage the community as we’re doing now,” Fauci said in an interview with CNN, “to get community people to help us, for people to understand that we are doing everything we can to show that it’s safe and that it’s effective, and it’s for the good of them as individuals and in society to take the vaccine.”

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday during a media briefing that people should reflect on the progress made and lessons learned in the crisis. But Ghebreyesus also warned that “the worst is yet to come” and urged countries to “recommit ourselves to doing everything we can to save lives.”