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'It is very concerning' | CDC expert warns US far from containing coronavirus

The CDC's Principal Deputy Director said 'we are not even beginning to be over' the coronavirus pandemic.

WASHINGTON — The coronavirus is spreading too quickly and broadly for the United States to have it under control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat.

Schuchat, who has 32 years of experience working for the CDC, made the comments during a live Q and A Monday with Dr. Howard Bauchner with JAMA, an international peer-reviewed medical journal.

Overall, the U.S. has experienced a sharp increase in the number of new coronavirus cases each day, and by late June had surpassed the peak rate of spread in early April.

A reported tally on Tuesday from Johns Hopkins University researchers said the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic had topped 509,000 worldwide.

About 1 in 4 of those deaths – more than 129,000 – have been reported in the U.S.

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“We’re not in the situation of New Zealand or Singapore or Korea where a new case is rapidly identified and all the contacts are traced and people are isolated who are sick and people who are exposed are quarantined and they can keep things under control,” Schuchat said. “We have way too much virus across the country for that right now, so it’s very discouraging.”

RELATED: New Zealand succeeds in eradicating coronavirus, reports no active cases

New Zealand has been praised globally for its response to the coronavirus. After a strict lockdown, the nation of about 5 million people had eliminated community transmission, at least for now.

Schuchat added that this is just the beginning of the virus.

"I think there was a lot of wishful thinking around the country that 'Hey, summer everything's going to be fine we are over this' and we are not even beginning to be over this," she said. "There is a lot of worrying factors about the last week or so."

The new coronavirus is one of Schuchat's worst-case scenario viruses.

"I was always asked about what was my worst nightmare, what kept me up at night. Usually, my answer was influenza pandemic and the characteristics of the COVID-19 are quite similar to what I was worried about," she said.

To help prevent the spread, Schuchat said "we need everyone to get on board" with wearing masks. The more people who wear them can not only protect themselves, but others in their community.

The CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people outside of their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Schuchat also asked people to adhere to social distancing guidelines and to not expect any kind of relief until there's a coronavirus vaccine.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems -- including children -- it can cause more severe illness and death. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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