Updated Jun 17, 2020 - Health

Fauci: U.S. still in first wave of coronavirus pandemic

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci during an April coronavirus briefing at the White House. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci warned in an interview with the Daily Beast against holding events like President Trump's upcoming rally and stressed that the U.S. is still in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic.

What he's saying: "We are seeing infections to a greater degree than they had previously seen in certain states, including states in the southwest and in the south," Fauci told the Daily Beast. "I don't like to talk about a second wave right now, because we haven't gotten out of our first wave."

  • Asked if he would attend President Trump's Saturday rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Fauci replied: "I’m in a high risk category. Personally, I would not. Of course not," said the 79-year-old infectious diseases expert, adding that for safety considerations "outside is better than inside, no crowd is better than crowd."

Why it matters: Fauci's comments are in stark contrast to those made by President Trump and other top administration officials in recent days.

What they're saying: In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence hailed the administration's "success," writing: "We've slowed the spread, we've cared for the most vulnerable, we've saved lives."

  • Pence, who heads the White House coronavirus task force and was Indiana's governor when the state's HIV rate reached epidemic status in 2015, pointed to overall cases stabilizing over the past two weeks, "with the daily average case rate across the U.S. dropping to 20,000" and noting " deaths are down to fewer than 750 a day."
  • Trump tweeted on Monday that U.S. coronavirus testing is "much bigger and more advanced than any other country ... that it shows more cases. Without testing, or weak testing, we would be showing almost no cases."

Of note: In a separate interview with the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Fauci agreed that increased testing does lead to more cases reported, but he said higher percentages of positive tests results in many states "cannot be explained by increased testing."

The big picture: Coronavirus infection numbers continue to rise in states including California, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama. And record new daily coronavirus cases were reported on Tuesday in Arizona (2,392), Florida (2,783), Texas (2,622), Oregon (278) and Oklahoma (228).

  • Almost 117,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. More than 2.1 million Americans have tested positive for the virus from over 24 million tests. More than 583,500 have recovered.

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