Anne Schuchat, director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), speaks during a hearing of the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions at the United States Capitol in Washington, DC, on Tuesday March 3, 2020.
Stefani Reynolds | Bloomberg via Getty Images
Coronavirus is spreading too fast and too far for the US to control, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, deputy chief director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Monday.
The United States has set records for new daily infections in recent days as outbreaks increase mainly in the south and west. The recent surge in new cases has overtaken daily infections in April when the virus shook Washington and Northeast states, and when public officials thought the outbreak was peaking in the U.S.
“We are not in the situation in New Zealand, Singapore or Korea, where a new case is quickly identified and all contacts are tracked and people who are sick are isolated and exposed people are quarantined and can keep things under control. control, “he said in an interview with Dr. Howard Bauchner of the Journal of the American Medical Association. “We have too many viruses across the country for that right now, so it is very discouraging.”
The New Zealand outbreak peaked in early April, when the country reported 89 new cases in a single day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. On June 8, officials stated that there were no more active infections in the island country of nearly 5 million. Since then, a handful of cases have entered the country from international travelers, but health officials have so far managed to contain the infections to less than 10 new cases daily per day through June.
South Korea was one of the first countries outside of China to fight a coronavirus outbreak, but health officials managed to contain the epidemic through aggressive testing, contact tracing, and isolation of infected people. The outbreak peaked at 851 new infections reported on March 3, according to Hopkins data, but the country has reported fewer than 100 new cases per day since April 1.
Like South Korea, Singapore achieved early success in preventing the spread of the virus through aggressive testing and tracking. However, in April, the virus began to circulate among the island country’s migrant worker community, becoming an outbreak that peaked on April 20, when the country reported 1,400 new cases, according to data from Hopkins. New daily cases have steadily declined since then, and on Sunday, the country reported 213 new cases, according to Hopkins data.
While the outbreaks in New Zealand, South Korea and Singapore have been of different magnitudes and followed different trajectories, officials in the three countries now respond quickly to each new infection to remove what remains of the outbreak, Schuchat said. The United States is in stark contrast as it continues to report more than 30,000 new infections per day.
“This is really the beginning,” Schuchat said of the recent increase in the United States in new cases. “I think there were a lot of illusions across the country that, hey, it’s summer. Everything is going to be fine. We have overcome this and we are not even beginning to overcome it. There are many worrying factors about it last week or so.”
The sheer size of the US and the fact that the virus is affecting different parts of the country at different times complicates the public response here compared to other countries, Schuchat said. South Korea, for example, was able to focus its response on the southern city of Daegu, for a time, and contact trackers were quickly deployed when new cases were later found in the capital Seoul.
“What we have in the United States is difficult to describe because these are very different outbreaks,” said Schuchat. “There was a wave of incredible acceleration, intense interventions, and control measures that have brought things to a much lower level of circulation in the New York City, Connecticut, New Jersey area. But much of the rest of the country , there are still many viruses. And in many places, there are more viruses circulating than there were. ”
The coronavirus has proven to be the type of virus that Schuchat and his colleagues have always feared would arise, he said. He added that it spreads easily, no one seems to have immunity and is in fact “stealthier than we expected.”
“As you plan it, you think about it, you have that human denial that it’s really going to happen on your watch, but it’s happening,” he said. “As much as we have studied [the 1918 flu pandemic]I think what we are experiencing as a global community is really bad and is similar to that transformative experience of 1918. “
At the current level of spread, Schuchat said the American public should “expect this virus to continue to circulate.” He added that people can help slow the spread of infection by practicing social distancing, wearing a mask and washing their hands, but no one should have any kind of relief to stop the virus until there is a vaccine.
“We can affect it, but in terms of the weather or the season that helps us, I don’t think we can count on that,” he said.