Fauci on rising COVID-19 numbers: ‘We can be either part of the solution or part of the problem’

Dr. Anthony Fauci provided a solemn reminder on the need for Americans to consider their actions amid the COVID-19 pandemic during the first White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing in nearly two months.

At the start of the briefing, Vice President Mike Pence gave assurances that “this moment in the coronavirus pandemic is different than what we saw two months ago.” He said that among other things, the U.S. has more supplies on hand now, with no requests from hard-hit states for equipment such as ventilators and protective gear.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed new infections in the U.S. per day soared past the previous high of 36,400, set on April 24, during one of the deadliest stretches in the crisis so far, according to the count kept by Johns Hopkins University. The average number of new cases per day has risen about 60 percent over the past two weeks, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Following comments made by Dr. Deborah Birx and Pence at the briefing, Fauci spoke on the interconnected, dynamic process of the global pandemic, highlighting how COVID-19 has such a range of symptoms and impacts on different individuals and populations.

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“A risk for you is not just isolated to you,” Fauci said in the press briefing, noting that “what goes on in one area of the country may impact another” in reference to multiple states that are experiencing high jumps in their COVID-19 confirmed percentages.

Florida’s daily number of confirmed cases neared 9,000 Friday, a record that was almost double the previous mark set just two days earlier.

Texas, meanwhile, reported more than 17,000 confirmed new cases in the past three days, with a record high of nearly 6,000 on Thursday. The day’s tally of over 4,700 hospitalizations was also a record.

A number of the hardest-hit states, including Texas, Florida, Arizona and Arkansas, have Republican governors who have resisted mask-wearing requirements and echoed President Donald Trump’s desire to quickly reopen the economy.

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“The chances are, if you get infected, you will infect someone else,” Fauci said. “If we want to end this, we got to realize we are part of the process.”

While the increase in reported cases is believed to reflect, in part, greatly expanded testing, experts say there is ample evidence the virus is making a comeback, including rising deaths and hospitalizations in parts of the country and higher percentages of tests coming back positive for the virus.

Fauci described the risk of an individual potentially infecting people who have more dire health conditions, such as patients receiving chemotherapy treatment or a child with leukemia. 

“Even the ones who are doing well are going to be vulnerable to the spread,” Fauci said, asserting that people have a responsibility to themselves, but also to society in helping to reduce the spread. 

“‘We can be either part of the solution or part of the problem,” Fauci said.

The virus is blamed for 124,000 deaths in the U.S. and 2.4 million confirmed infections nationwide, by Johns Hopkins' count. But U.S. health officials said the true number of Americans infected is about 20 million, or almost 10 times higher. Worldwide, the virus has claimed close to a half-million lives, according to Johns Hopkins.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.