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Infectious disease expert says coronavirus outbreak to get worse in US

Posted at 11:48 AM, Mar 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-11 14:49:27-04

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has told a U.S. House committee that the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. is going to get worse.

CDC Director Robert Redfield reports that U.S. virus deaths are now up to 31 and confirmed cases are over 1,000.

Fauci told the House Oversight and Reform Committee in Washington on Wednesday that "I can say we will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now."

He says how much worse it gets depends on two things: the ability of U.S. authorities to curtail the influx of travelers who may be bringing the disease into the country and the ability of states and communities to contain local outbreaks in this country.

Asked if the worst is yet to come, Fauci said: "Yes, it is."

U.S. lawmakers and health officials have set up containment zones and quarantine areas and sought to limit contact with those who might be infected.

Governors and other leaders are scrambling to slow the spread of the virus, banning large gatherings, enforcing quarantines and calling National Guard troops in to help.

U.S. health officials are now telling doctors and nurses that surgical masks are OK to wear when treating patients who may be sick from the new coronavirus — a decision made in reaction to shortages of more protective respirator masks. The CDC decision was prompted by reports of dwindling supplies of respirators.

Meanwhile, across the world, more than 121,000 cases have been confirmed, with over 4,300 deaths. A majority were reported in mainland China, where the virus was first detected.

Wednesday, Belgium's health ministry has announced the country's first three deaths related to the virus: a 90-year-old woman and two men aged 73 and 86. Albania and Bulgaria also each had their first deaths.

Italy has become one of the hardest hit countries in the outbreak. Italian authorities say the number of coronavirus infections has topped the 10,000 mark and deaths rose to 631 on Tuesday. A sweeping lockdown has been put in place in the country to try to prevent it from becoming the next epicenter of the epidemic.

The lockdown comes as China edged back to normal, with the diminishing threat prompting its president to visit the outbreak's epicenter.

But in growing swaths of the globe outside China, virus-related closures and other disruptions are increasingly the new normal.

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