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In states where coronavirus is surging, reopening plans put on hold

The U.S. is now averaging roughly 40,000 new confirmed infections of COVID-19 each day. The caseload has more than doubled this month in at least 10 states, mostly in the South and the West. As some states put their reopening plans on hold, the nation’s top health experts are sounding new warnings about the recent surge -- and how it could grow even more severe. William Brangham reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The U.S. is now averaging roughly 40,000 new confirmed COVID-19 infections each day. The caseload has more than doubled this month in at least 10 states, mostly in the South and the West.

    Today, the nation's top health experts sounded new warnings about the recent surge and spoke to the prospect of developing a vaccine.

    William Brangham begins our coverage.

  • William Brangham:

    With multiple states seeing new spikes in coronavirus cases, the Senate heard caution today from the nation's top infectious disease expert.

  • Anthony Fauci:

    I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around, and so I am very concerned.

  • William Brangham:

    Dr. Anthony Fauci testified at a hearing, alongside other members of the federal COVID-19 response team. Fauci did say he was hopeful about a vaccine coming by this winter, at the earliest.

  • Anthony Fauci:

    There is no guarantee — and anyone who has been involved in vaccinology will tell you — that we will have a safe and effective vaccine, but we are cautiously optimistic.

  • William Brangham:

    Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called this virus the greatest public health challenge in a century.

  • Robert Redfield:

    Daily cases are increasing, after an extended decline. We're seeing significant increases in the Southeast and Southwest regions of this nation.

  • William Brangham:

    All the witnesses today stressed the importance of the few tools we do have: social distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks.

    And now a growing number of conservative voices, many who had resisted masks before, are coming out in support of them. Republican Committee Chair Lamar Alexander of Tennessee had a message for President Trump, who's been particularly resistant to wearing them.

  • Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.:

    I have suggested that the president occasionally wear a mask, even though, in most cases, it's not necessary for him to do so. The stakes are too high for this political debate about pro-Trump, anti-Trump masks to continue.

  • William Brangham:

    Today's hearing comes as the Trump administration continues to paint a rosier picture of the pandemic than public health officials.

    Vice President Mike Pence, head of the Coronavirus Task Force, spoke this afternoon.

  • Vice President Mike Pence:

    We're in a much better place today, thanks to the whole-of-government approach, the whole-of-America approach, that President Trump initiated at the very outset of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • William Brangham:

    Earlier, former Vice President and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden excoriated the administration for its handling of the pandemic.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    It didn't have to be this way. Month after month, as other leaders in other countries took the necessary steps to get the virus under control, Donald Trump failed us.

  • William Brangham:

    As the virus spreads in a number of states, some officials have had to dial back their reopenings.

    On Monday, Texas and California both reported record increases in new infections. Cases in Florida are also soaring. In Arizona, hospitalizations have nearly doubled in the last two weeks, prompting Governor Doug Ducey to scale back his state's reopening.

    Meanwhile, the 31-nation European Union announced today it will open its borders to 14 other countries. The United States, because of its outbreak, is not on that list.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.

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