Dr. Fauci Says This Is the Sign That a COVID-19 Surge Is Coming

This key indicator can predict where the coronavirus will spike next in the U.S.

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With COVID-19 still spreading around the United States, all eyes are on which regions are likely to be affected next. And while many are watching case numbers and now deaths rise, there's another major metric states should be considering. Anthony Fauci, MD, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), recently said that a steady increase in positive test rate is the key sign that a coronavirus surge is coming.

"Prior to the surging, you could detect an early increase in the percent positive for any given state," Fauci said in a recent interview with Howard Bauchner, MD, editor in chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). "It's a good predictor of a surge."

The percent positive rate is the percentage of tests that come back positive for COVID-19 out of all the tests conducted in a state. The World Health Organization (WHO) advises governments that before reopening, positive test rates should remain at 5 percent or lower for at least 14 days. Currently, 34 states in the U.S. are above that threshold, according to COVID data from Johns Hopkins.

"Even if it goes up 1 or 1.5 percent," Fauci said, it's cause for concern.

Fauci explained that positive test rates are spiking in areas other than the country's most well-known hotspots like Arizona and Florida. Now, the Midwest is the target of a similar "insidious" rise to what the Sun Belt has seen for the past month, he said. Previously, in a July 28 interview with ABC's Good Morning America, Fauci noted that the states that should be on alert are Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky. In his conversation with JAMA, he also added Minnesota to that list.

If a state is showing a high positive test rate, Fauci said the most important thing to do is to consider stricter safety measures and to potentially pause reopening. "You have to take a look at where you are in the process of trying to reopen," Fauci said. "You may need to pause, you may need to drop back a little bit."

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However, that doesn't mean returning to a complete shutdown again, he says. In an interview with CNN on July 30, Fauci explained: "I don't think we need to go all the way back to lockdown. And the reason I say that is that we're learning more and more." He explained that the "five fundamental principles"—wearing masks, keeping physical distance, avoiding bars, avoiding crowds, and maintaining hand hygiene—can help your state avoid another shutdown. "Those are five, not rocket science things that one can do. … States that have done that, they've actually flattened the surging curve and then start[ed] to come down." And for more important warnings from Fauci, check out Dr. Fauci Says There's Now Evidence That Coronavirus Spreads This Way.

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