What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

A public health expert on how Americans ‘can avoid a horrible December’

Several U.S. public health leaders warned this weekend that the coronavirus is spreading unchecked throughout the country -- and likely to become significantly worse in the coming days and weeks. Unlike in the spring and summer, virus cases are rising in 49 of 50 states. William Brangham looks at the urgency of the situation with Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Several American public health leaders warned this weekend that the coronavirus is spreading unchecked throughout the country and is likely to get significantly worse in coming days and weeks.

    Whoever wins the White House faces a daunting path ahead.

    States reported more than 80,000 new cases in the U.S. just yesterday and more than 445 deaths.

    William Brangham looks at the urgency of the situation with Dr. Ashish Jha. He's dean of Brown University's School of Public Health.

  • William Brangham:

    Dr. Jha, great to have you back on the "NewsHour" again.

    Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said recently that Thanksgiving at the end of this month could be an inflection point for this incredible surge that we are seeing across the country. He also said that December might be the toughest month yet.

    Does that sound right to you?

  • Ashish Jha:

    Unfortunately, I think Dr. Gottlieb is right about this.

    We are in a very difficult situation already. And here we are, the beginning of November, we are identifying about 100,000 infected people a day across the nation.

    As opposed to the spring and summer, those surges, which were located in specific regions, right now, every part of the country is seeing increasing number of cases; 49 states actually are seeing increasing number of cases.

    So, we're probably missing 70 percent, 80 percent of all the cases out there. So, the real number of infections is substantially greater. And we're not doing the things to slow this down.

    And so, by the end of this month, I expect things to start looking much worse, unless we act now. So, we can avoid a horrible December, but we have got to make some changes right now.

  • William Brangham:

    And we are on the cusp, of course, of this enormous national election, one that's really been sort of transformed and deformed by this virus.

    Every aspect of our society has been. And yet the president on the campaign trail recently has been saying that we're rounding the corner. He also suggested at a rally recently that he might consider firing Dr. Anthony Fauci.

    Help us put this into perspective. Do you think — is this just bluster that the president sometimes is known to do, or should we take this more seriously?

  • Ashish Jha:

    So, first of all, I think it's worth noting that Dr. Fauci has been and continues to be the most important voice for fighting this pandemic.

    The president can certainly choose to get rid of Dr. Fauci from his Coronavirus Task Force. That is his decision. He can choose not to listen to the most expert voices in the country.

    It's not clear that he could fire him from his NIH role. But either way, it so undermines the national confidence in scientific expertise for the president to even suggest that he would fire someone like Dr. Fauci. I obviously hope that he doesn't carry through with it. It would leave the American people much worse off.

  • William Brangham:

    All right, Dr. Ashish Jha, Brown University School of Public Health, thanks, as always.

  • Ashish Jha:

    Thank you.

Listen to this Segment