The number two official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave a grim assessment Monday about the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S., warning the country is “not even beginning to be over this” and “clearly not at a point where there’s so little virus being spread that it’s going to be easy to snuff out.”
The comments from CDC principal deputy director Dr. Anne Schuchat came in a live-streamed Q&A session with The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Schuchat contrasted the situation in the U.S. with that of New Zealand or Singapore, “where a new case is rapidly identified and all the contacts are traced and people are isolated who are sick and people who are exposed are quarantined and they can keep things under control.”
“We have way too much virus across the country for that right now, so it’s very discouraging,” she said.
The new surge of Covid-19 cases in the U.S., warned Schuchat, is “really the beginning.”
“I think there was a lot of wishful thinking around the country that, ‘Hey it’s summer. Everything’s going to be fine. We’re over this,’ and we are not even beginning to be over this,” said Schuchat, adding, “There are a lot of worrisome factors about the last week or so.”
“As much as we’ve studied [the 1918 flu pandemic], I think what we’re experiencing as a global community is really bad and it’s similar to that 1918 transformational experience,” she said.
PBS Newshour‘s William Brangham tweeted Schuchat’s comments served as a “brutal pandemic reality check.”
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Public health experts weighed in on the interview as well.
Forthright, important comments on seriousness of US COVID situation from Anne Schuchat principal deputy @cdcgov. The country should hear more from Dr Schuchat who has led through big epidemics in past, planned for years, and speaks directly and factually https://t.co/ieNJzfWWlK
— Tom Inglesby (@T_Inglesby) June 30, 2020
Seeing Dr. Anne Schuchat speaking out and getting quoted in the press is the most encouraging COVID development in a long time, notwithstanding that she is bringing bad news = truth, a scarce commodity from USG recently. https://t.co/KrG6jBWfuB
— Marc Lipsitch (@mlipsitch) June 30, 2020
I listen to every word Dr. Schuchat says on @COVID19. She’s worked on this for 20+ years. Brilliant, thoughtful, effective. This is ESSENTIAL listening. Virus is “incredibly infectious.” More masks, less chance for virus to spread. Pearls of wisdom. Professional epidemiology. https://t.co/r4hzJWZJrr
— Dr. Tom Frieden (@DrTomFrieden) June 30, 2020
Schuchat’s interview took place the same day World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gave a similarly sobering assessment of progress to contain the coronavirus, saying that “this is not even close to being over.”
“Although many countries have made some progress,” he said, “globally the pandemic is actually speeding up.”
As of press time there were over 10.4 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including over 2.6 million in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins.
The university’s tracker also showed that Covid-19 has led to 509,706 deaths, 129, 545 of which were in the U.S.