Larry Kudlow, the top White House economic official, says the US will not suffer a “second wave” outbreak of coronavirus even as several states reported a surge in new cases.
Mr Kudlow’s comments came as 29 states and US territories reported an increase in the seven-day average of new confirmed cases, suggesting the country has not yet put a stop to the first wave of the virus.
The biggest rises are occurring in southern and western states that have quickly reopened their economies, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Some western states that have taken a more cautious approach to reopening, such as California and Washington, are also experiencing an increase in cases.
In Arizona, the coronavirus case count has almost doubled in 14 days. Health officials in the state reported 2,592 new cases on Sunday, taking the total number to 52,390, compared with about 27,000 on June 7.
California reported 4,515 new cases on Sunday — the biggest one-day jump since March — taking its statewide total to 173,824.
However, Mr Kudlow dismissed the rising case counts as “just hotspots” that would be managed by teams of officials dispatched to the states by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There is no second wave coming,” he told CNBC on Monday. “We’ve got the testing procedures, we’ve got the diagnostics, we’ve got the [personal protective equipment]. And so I really think it’s a pretty good situation.”
Mr Kudlow’s confidence appeared to contradict comments from Peter Navarro, a top White House trade adviser, who on Sunday said the administration was preparing for a possible second wave.
“We are filling the stockpile in anticipation of a possible problem in the fall,” Mr Navarro told CNN on Sunday. “We are doing everything we can beneath the surface. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but of course you prepare.”
The White House has dismissed the rising case count as a product of increased testing. On Saturday, President Donald Trump told a rally of his supporters that he had asked officials to “slow the testing down”, although Mr Navarro later said the president’s remarks were intended to be “tongue in cheek”.
However, public health experts said the rising case counts were not a result of increased testing alone, pointing to a higher proportion of positive test results and a jump in hospitalisations in some states.
Texas reported that 3,409 people were in hospital with coronavirus on Sunday, an almost 200 per cent increase compared with the start of April, when the state first started publishing hospitalisation data.
Anthony Fauci, one of the top advisers on the White House coronavirus task force, told the Financial Times he was “very worried” about the “sunbelt states”, including Texas, Florida, and Arizona, and their ability to handle increased case counts.
“Obviously we’ve built up our strategic national stockpile of ventilators, so we can get ventilators. But we have to improvise on hospital beds, because it isn’t only ventilators, it’s hospital beds,” Dr Fauci said in an interview late last week.
Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said the rising case counts were not “just a function of testing more”.
“We’re seeing the positivity rates go up — that’s a clear indication there is now community spread under way,” Dr Gottlieb told CBS on Sunday.
Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, also warned that the virus was now spreading in more rural communities, which do not have the state-of-the-art hospitals found in places like New York City.
“It is just as stressful for patients and hospitals as it was in New York City, just on a much smaller scale,” he said. “They don’t have the resources, specialists and technology that exist in the very large hospitals of New York City.”
Rising case counts have not yet resulted in a similarly dramatic rise in deaths, in part because increasing transmission rates appear to be being driven by younger people.
However, public health experts warn that rising case counts could eventually lead to higher mortality rates if younger people pass the virus on to the elderly and patients with underlying health conditions.
Last week, Gregg Abbott, Texas governor, said that the state’s infections were being driven by younger people in “bar-type settings” who were not heeding social distancing guidelines.
Additional reporting by Hannah Kuchler in New York and Donato Mancini in London