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The pandemic in the US could escalate to see 100,000 new coronavirus infections per day, the country’s top infectious diseases specialist has warned.

Dr Anthony Fauci told senators on Tuesday that he was very concerned to see people gathering in crowds and not wearing masks.

He said: “We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around and so I am very concerned.”

Regarding reports of people not paying attention to social distancing guidelines, Dr Fauci said: “We’re going to continue to be in a lot of trouble, and there’s going to be a lot of hurt if that does not stop.”

People protest against mandates to wear masks in Austin, Texas (REUTERS)

Dr Fauci was speaking to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee after new daily coronavirus cases hit an all-time high of more than 40,000 on Friday.

Several states have rolled back freedoms, including California, Arizona, Texas and Florida, which have put new restrictions on bars and various other public facilities.

Dr Fauci added that he couldn’t predict the exact future of the outbreak, but warned: “It’s going to be very disturbing, I will guarantee you that.”

He urged people to wear masks, and singled out young people – who appear to be much less affected by the virus than older generations.

People wearing masks in Florida (AFP via Getty Images)

He added: “It is critical that we all take the personal responsibility to slow the transmission of Covid-19 and embrace the universal use of face coverings.

“Specifically, I’m addressing the younger members of our society, the Millennials and the Generation Zs – I ask those that are listening to spread the word.”

Dr Fauci said that he would support any measure that got people wearing masks more often, including an initiative to hand them out for free, suggested by Senator Bernie Sanders.

He went on: “Masks are extremely important. There’s no doubt that wearing masks protects you and gets you to be protected.

“So it’s people protecting each other. Anything that furthers the use of masks, whether it’s giving out free masks or any other mechanism, I am thoroughly in favour of.”

The US has recorded 126,000 deaths linked to coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 2.6 million people have tested positive for the virus.