During his testimony before the United States Senate on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the coronavirus death toll may be even higher than the 80,000+ deaths that are being reported. Fauci joined the Senate via video chat this week to discuss the steps towards reopening public spaces. He noted that the strain on the medical infrastructure of the U.S. means that many cases have gone unreported.
Fauci was asked by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders about the possibility of a higher COVID-19 death toll than is being officially reported. Sanders cited other infectious disease experts who suggest that the death toll may be as much as 50 percent higher. Fauci said he was "not sure" if the 50 percent estimate was accurate, but confirmed that "most of us [epidemiologists] feel that the number of deaths are likely higher than" what is being reported. To illustrate this point, he used his home town of New York City as an example.
"Given the situation — particularly in New York City, where they were really strapped with a very serious challenge to their health care system — that there may have been people who died at home who did have COVID, who were not counted as COVID, because they never really got to the hospital... I think you are correct that the number is likely higher. I don't know exactly what percent higher, but it almost certainly is higher."
At the time of this writing, the U.S. has 81,751 confirmed deaths due to the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University. Fauci's main point in addressing the senate was to argue that it is too soon for the "reopening" efforts many states are attempting, as it will likely cause the death toll to more than double in the coming months.
Fauci drew attention back to the Opening Up America Again plan that he helped author as part of the White House coronavirus task force. The plan includes several statistical benchmarks that states should strive to reach before taking the corresponding step towards reopening their public spaces. That includes two consecutive weeks of either a "downward trajectory of positive tests" or a "downward trajectory of documented cases" of COVID-19.
Fauci testified via video chat because he is in a "modified quarantine" after a "low risk" exposure to someone infected with COVID-19, he told CBS News. The doctor was blocked from testifying before Congress in a similar discussion. President Donald Trump admitted that he chose to block Fauci from testifying there because Congress is led by a Democratic majority, saying: "The House is a setup. The House is a bunch of Trump haters." For the latest information on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the websites of the CDC and the World Health Organization.