The Slatest

Top Infectious Disease Expert Warns: “It Is Going to Get Worse”

Fauci takes off his glasses as he speaks.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies at a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Wednesday about the government response to the coronavirus. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top immunology official, contradicted the White House’s statements on the novel coronavirus in a hearing on Wednesday and asserted that the coronavirus outbreak will get far worse in the U.S.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, was asked in a hearing before the House Oversight Committee if the worst was yet to come.

“Yes, it is,” he said. At another point in the hearing he made it clear. “The bottom line: It is going to get worse.”

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Fauci’s comments were striking, as it appeared to be the first time a prominent government expert broke with the White House directly in a public appearance. Fauci declined to comment on how the Trump administration had been handing the outbreak, but his appearance still made for a stark contrast with recent Trump administration talking points. Trump has been adamant that the government would contain and handle COVID-19 before it became a major epidemic. Larry Kudlow, Trump’s economic adviser, claimed Friday that the virus was “contained”—something Kellyanne Conway also told Fox News, chalking it up to the president’s quick actions.

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In the meantime, many Americans have struggled to get access to tests for the virus. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Politico on Tuesday that he was concerned that the U.S. did not have the supplies it needed to make the tests on hand. There are now more than 1,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., and at least 31 people have died from the coronavirus.

When asked if the public could expect a vaccine for the virus in the next few months—something Trump has been promising—Fauci said that any vaccine would be at least a year away.

Redfield, too, contradicted some of the president’s talking points. Earlier in the day, Trump had tweeted that we “need the Wall more than ever” in reference to coronavirus and the nation’s borders. At the hearing, Redfield, who praised Trump during the president’s visit to the CDC headquarters on Friday, was asked if the CDC thought “structural barriers” at the border would help manage the outbreak. “Not that I’ve seen,” he said.

For more on the impact of the coronavirus, listen to What Next.

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