Jul 19, 2020 - Health

NIH director explains why U.S. coronavirus outbreak is worse than Europe's

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that the reason the U.S. is doing "so poorly" with the coronavirus compared to Europe is because many states ignored federal reopening guidelines and let their guard down "imagining this was just a New York problem."

Why it matters: The U.S. leads the world with over 3.7 million confirmed cases and 140,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. While Europe was initially hit hard by the pandemic, most countries have successfully flattened their infection curve and lifted lockdown restrictions.

What he's saying: "We basically did a good job in New York and New Jersey and Connecticut with that terrible crisis that happened and took many lives. ... And basically steps were put in place and if you look to see what's happening now in those areas, they came down very close to zero," Collins said.

  • "But meanwhile, the rest of the country, perhaps imagining this was just a New York problem, kind of went about their business, didn't really pay that much attention to CDC's recommendations about the phases necessary to open up safely, and jumped over some of those hoops."
  • "And people started congregating and not wearing masks and feeling like it's over and maybe summer, it will all go away. And now here we are not only with 70,000 new cases almost every day, but from my perspective also, a quite concerning number of hospitalizations."

The bottom line: Collins insisted that Americans are fully capable of "rising to a crisis" and said that he does not consider masks to be "optional" when it comes to people protecting themselves and those around them.

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