Experts have described the uptick as a rebound from the first wave of the coronavirus in the U.S. rather than a second wave, but are cautiously viewing the nationwide protests against racism as potentially contributing to even greater levels of infection.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called the mass gatherings “risky” Friday in a podcast interview with ABC News. “You know, it’s a danger to the people who are trying to control the demonstration, and it’s a danger to the people who are demonstrating,” he said.
Dr. Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director for infectious diseases, told reporters in a telebriefing Friday that “there’s no one answer” to explain the increase in cases, characterizing the situation as “variable in different parts of the country” and noting rates of hospitalization have been trending downward nationally.
“But this is something that is ongoing, and we will continue to monitor very closely,” Butler added. “So that by no means is meant to suggest that this is not something that we’re not very concerned about and will be working on very closely.”
Still, governors shown reluctance to reimpose stringent mitigation measures as they embark upon reopening their states. Trump, too, has signaled his intention to resume his normal routines, and will return to the campaign trail next Friday with a rally in Tulsa, Okla.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that “we can’t shut down the economy again” should coronavirus cases surge further, warning of the dire effects of widespread lockdown orders.
“We’ve learned that if you shut down the economy, you’re going to create more damage,” he told CNBC. “And not just economic damage, but there are other areas, and we’ve talked about this — medical problems and everything else that get put on hold.”
The administration’s aggressive push to reopen the American economy coincides with its curtailing of the White House coronavirus task force, which has not conducted a daily news briefing in more than a month. The most prominent health officials charged with fighting the spread of Covid-19, including Birx and Fauci, have also receded from public view.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar insisted, however, that the president “hasn’t been at odds with his public health advisers,” maintaining that Trump “works closely with them” and “takes their advice” despite his demands for states to reopen in defiance of White House guidelines.
“Well, the guidelines are guidelines,” Azar told NBC News in an interview airing Saturday. “They’re simply potential markers for how one would progress to reopening. But each governor knows the lay of the land in their state better.”
More than 113,000 Americans have died as a result of Covid-19 as of Friday morning, and the total number of confirmed cases in the U.S. has swelled beyond 2 million. About 5,000 to 6,000 Americans are expected to die every week from Covid-19 from now until July 4, experts predict.