As the U.S. continues to talk about reopening during the outbreak of Covid-19, several top health officials have started self-quarantine as workers in the White House have tested positive and a top disease expert says up to 70% of Americans could be infected with the potentially deadly virus.
The nation's top immunologist and key leader of the national coronavirus task force, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is reportedly undergoing a modified quarantine starting over the weekend, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, Dr. Robert Redfield, and Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Dr. Stephen Hahn, were also reportedly under self-quarantine after assumed contact with a person who tested positive for the virus.
That the virus has penetrated the top of the U.S. executive branch is yet another example of the challenges faced by the nation in containing the virus that has so far killed nearly 80,000 Americans and is believed to have infected more than 1.3 million nationwide.
"Somewhere between now and tomorrow, next year, we’re going to see 60 to 70% of Americans ultimately infected with this virus. What we have to do is to figure out how not just to die with the virus but also how to live with it. And we’re not having that discussion," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, on NBC News' "Meed the Press" on Sunday, according to a transcript.
"We have to understand that we’re riding this tiger, we’re not directing it. This virus is going to do what it's going to do. What we can do is only nibble at the edges, and I think it’s not a good message to send to the public that we can control this virus in a meaningful way."
Osterholm's grim forecast came the same weekend that it was revealed that a White House staffer had tested positive for Covid-19.
Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN he's started a "modified" quarantine after coming into contact with the staffer -- an interaction that he framed as "low risk."
A spokeswoman for Vice President Mike Pence has tested positive for Covid-19, and earlier, it was reported that one of President Donald Trump's personal valets had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The nation is now aiming to get Americans back to work amid the outbreak, as nation's jobless rate rockets to nearly 15%, according to data released on Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
White House officials warned Sunday that the jobless rate could rise to one in five or even a quarter of Americans.
“The reported numbers are probably going to get worse before they get better,” Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury Secretary, told "Fox News Sunday," before predicting next year would be "great."
But a doctor at Johns Hopkins also told "Fox News Sunday" that the nation is "not diagnosing enough cases and we are not tracing their contacts."
"We don't know how this disease is spreading in many places. We still don't understand who's at highest risk, why are we having so many cases now this many weeks into a -- into a plateau. We’re into various cases having -- experiencing rising daily -- daily numbers," said Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University to Fox's Mike Wallace.
"So I am concerned. I think there are some places in the country which are doing a lot better, which have low overall numbers and have had a two-week decline in cases or more and have been doing a lot of testing. But there are other places which are really experiencing the opposite -- rising cases, too little testing, too little tracing."
Wallace asked of the risks of reopening those states with rising numbers of cases, and Inglesby responded, "Well, the danger is that with increased social interaction in businesses or churches or in activities, going to restaurants ... that with increased social interaction, we will again see increased transmission and rising number of cases. And in states where they’re already on the rise, that I could put a lot of pressure on their health care system. That could lead to new hot spots."
For perspective, the doctor said, two months ago the U.S. had well under a thousand known cases, "And now, we have well more than a million. So, this disease moves quickly and it doesn't respect city borders, state borders."