WASHINGTON, D.C. (News Nation/Reuters) – The government’s top infectious diseases expert says he’s cautiously optimistic health experts could develop a COVID-19 vaccine sometime this winter, but he urged Americans to work together to fight the virus that large parts of the country are confronting.
California, Texas and many other states have reported record increases in new cases, leading to a sobering reassessment of U.S. efforts to contain the pandemic.
“It’s extremely important to have safe and effective vaccines available for everyone in this country,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a U.S. Senate committee Tuesday. “There is no guarantee — and anyone who has been involved in vaccinations will tell you — we’ll have a safe and effective vaccine, but we are cautiously optimistic, looking at animal data and the preliminary data, that we will at least know the extent of the efficacy sometime in the winter and early part of next year.”
He also urged Americans to come together and contain the virus, particularly younger adults, saying they’ve let down their guard since the end of mandatory lockdowns put in place in March and April to stop the pandemic.
Those remarks were reiterated by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield.
“It is critical that we all take the personal responsibility to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and embrace the universal use of face coverings,” Redfield said.
There are fears the recent surge in cases could become turbo-charged later this week by Fourth of July celebrations, when Americans traditionally flock to beaches and campgrounds and gather to watch fireworks displays.
In June, COVID-19 cases more than doubled in at least 10 U.S. states, including Texas and Florida, a Reuters tally showed.
Los Angeles, the second-largest U.S. city, has become a new epicenter in the pandemic as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge there despite California Governor Gavin Newsom’s orders requiring bars to close and residents to wear masks in nearly all public spaces.
Los Angeles County reported nearly 3,000 new cases on Monday.
Another hot spot is Texas, one of the states that reopened its economy the earliest. On Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott expanded his order for hospitals in certain counties to cancel elective procedures so that bed space remains available for severe COVID-19 cases.
Fauci and Redfield also testified before lawmakers last week, when Fauci said “we’re going to be doing more testing, not less,” in response to President Donald Trump’s claim that he asked his administration to slow down testing.
This week, the infectious disease doctor said, “we are going in the wrong direction … clearly we are not in total control right now.”
He also presented data showing the U.S. is seeing 40-plus thousand new cases per day and predicted that the country could soon see 100,000 cases a day.
More than 126,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and millions have lost their jobs. The economy contracted sharply in the first quarter.
Extraordinary measures have been taken to safeguard the economy, with Congress allocating nearly $3 trillion in aid to businesses and individuals and the Federal Reserve slashing interest rates, ramping up bond purchases and unveiling programs to backstop and extend corporate credit and promote lending.