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'Worst it's ever been' | Infectious disease expert warns pandemic death toll in U.S. could hit 400,000 by Inauguration Day

Dr. Peter Hotez published a paper with recommendations for the incoming Biden administration on how to curb the pandemic and avoid growing death toll.

HOUSTON — As COVID-19 cases keep climbing nationally, experts in Houston said to expect the pandemic to get even worse in the next few weeks.

Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious disease expert at Baylor College of Medicine, is publishing a new paper with steps the incoming Biden administration should take when he takes office in January. One of the key points involves getting politics out of the response.

"I don't think the American people grasp how dire the situation we're in right now is," Hotez said.

COVID-19 is spreading at a record pace. The U.S. is averaging more than 100,000 new cases a day this week. Hospitalizations across the country nearly reaching record highs, too.

"Things are now about the worst they've ever been," Hotez said. "Projections are 400,000 deaths ... Americans (who) will lose their lives by the week after the inauguration. So this is awful."

Hotez says the next few months before President-elect Joe Biden takes office will be critical.

"I'm concerned we're in such a bad state at this time and it's happening during a lame-duck period," Hotez said.

To fill the vacuum, Hotez said Biden needs to bring people together focused on COVID-19 now.

"We're going to have to build some bipartisan initiatives over these next few weeks and months," Hotez said.

To get it done, Hotez is calling for the incoming Biden team to restructure and implement a national response.

"We need to take the national COVID-19 response out of Washington D.C., where it's been politicized and bring it back to Atlanta, to the Center for Disease Control or CDC," Hotez said.

Biden already put together a COVID-19 advisory panel on Monday, and he's imploring Americans to wear masks. That's a good start, Hotez said, but it's ultimately up to the American people to respond.

He said to do the right thing before the pandemic truly spirals out of control.

"We can't wait 'til Jan. 20, too many Americans will lose their lives," he said.