KEY POINTS

  • Rear Admiral Dr. Brian Monahan expects 70 million to 150 million people in the U.S. will be infected by COVID-19
  • "Bottom line, it's going to get worse," warned Dr. Anthony Fauci
  • The U.S. ranks seventh among all countries with confirmed COVID-19 cases

Two top U.S. medical experts told members of Congress Wednesday the COVID-19 outbreak now raging across 36 states and inflicting 32 deaths as of Wednesday will dramatically worsen and might lead to the infection of up to 150 million Americans, or about half the total U.S. population.

Rear Admiral Dr. Brian Monahan, the Attending Physician of the United States Congress and the United States Supreme Court, told senators during a closed-door meeting he expects 70 million to 150 million people in the U.S. will become infected with COVID-19, as reported by NBC News.

Speaking mostly about how members of Congress can better protect themselves against the coronavirus, Adm. Monahan said senators and congressmen shouldn't travel abroad if they don’t have to. He said there are as yet no restrictions on domestic travel.

Adm. Monahan also told those present that coronavirus testing will only be administered to members of Congress. On the other hand, Congressional staffers should see their doctors if they experience any COVID-19 symptoms. Adm. Monahan also reaffirmed a consistent message that ultimately, 80% of those that contract the coronavirus will be fine.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common novel coronavirus symptoms that might appear 2 to 14 days after exposure are fever, cough and shortness of breath. It urges people to call their doctors if they develop symptoms, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19.

Also on Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified before the House Oversight and Reform Committee about the country's preparedness for the fast-spreading COVID-19 outbreak. He pointed out the coronavirus will continue to spread because containment measures and contact tracing have failed to prevent community spread of the highly-infectious coronavirus.

"Is the worst yet to come, Dr. Fauci?" aked Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

"Yes, it is," Dr. Fauci replied.

Dr. Fauci said while the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is being contained in some respects, the U.S. is seeing more cases emerge through community spread, as well as international travel.

"I can say we will see more cases, and things will get worse than they are right now," said Dr. Fauci. "How much worse we'll get will depend on our ability to do two things: to contain the influx of people who are infected coming from the outside, and the ability to contain and mitigate within our own country."

"Bottom line, it's going to get worse," he warned.

Anthony Fauci Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies about the measles outbreak in the United States before a House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington Feb. 3, 2015. Photo: REUTERS/JIM BOURG

Alarmingly, potential vaccines for the coronavirus are still at least a year or a year and a half away, he again said. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is the "severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)."

Dr. Fauci said it's vital for those fighting COVID-19 to know how many peopl are infected, as well as how many remain under the radar screen. Mass testing will accomplish this and the U.S. fumbled its initial testing response by issuing faulty test kits and guidelines.

As both Adm. Monahan and Dr. Fauci were at Congress, the U.S. saw the addition of two more deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the national death total to 32. Of the 32 U.S. deaths, 24 are in Washington, 4 in California, 2 in Florida, 1 in New Jersey, and 1 in South Dakota.

South Dakota only announced its first COVID-19 cases -- five in number -- Wednesday and at the same time said one of these persons had died. Gov. Kristi Noem said this South Dakota man from Pennington County was in his 60s and had underlying health issues. She said SDDH is still verifying if this man did indeed die from COVID-19.

In California, the Department of Health Services-Sacramento County said a woman in her 90s from an Elk Grove nursing home died from COVID-19. It also said everyone in the nursing home will undergo testing.

New coronavirus cases were announced Tuesday night in Georgia and Florida, bringing their state totals to 22 and 23, respectively. The totals don't include Americans repatriated from China or the Diamond Princess cruise ship anchored in Yokohama, Japan.

The United States still has the seventh largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide but its accelerating rate of infections might see it close the gap with sixth place Germany.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. exceeded 1,000 Wednesday morning and hit 1,135 shortly before 5:00 p.m. Eastern, said the latest data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. Compared to the 808 cases at about this time Tuesday, Wednesday's number is a 40% increase over the previous day.

Germany has 1,908 cases as of Wednesday. Germans took alarm when chancellor Angela Merkel said 50% to 70% of Germany's population might ultimately be infected by COVID-19.

Also on Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic and warned countries aren't doing as much as they should be doing to combat this menace.