WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The U.S. is currently seeing about 40,000 new coronavirus cases every day.

However, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Tuesday the country could start reporting as many as 100,000 cases daily if states can’t get their recent outbreaks under control.

“It could get very bad,” he said.

Fauci’s warning came as he and his coronavirus task force colleagues testified before the Senate Health Committee about how the country can safely return to school in a matter of weeks.

“The CDC never really recommended closing schools,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It sort of just happened.”

But the country is now looking to experts for guidance on how to safely reopen schools in the fall. The committee’s chairman, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-TN, said it’s an important step.

“There is some health risk, but in my view, the greater risk is not going back to school,” Alexander said.

Fauci told the committee it ultimately depends on the outbreak in each area, but he and Redfield are both working on studies to see how likely kids are to infect their teachers and families.

“If the rate of infection is down and they don’t readily transmit to their parents and family members, that’s going to be very important,” Fauci said.  

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-LA, pressed Redfield for universal guidelines from the CDC on how schools should conduct testing.

“If you have this kind of community, this is what you do,” Cassidy said. “If you have that kind of community, this is what you do.”

“We are now looking at the granular level,” Redfield replied.

The experts told senators treatments and vaccines will also give Americans more confidence to return to the classroom. They still predict multiple treatments by the fall with a vaccine in the spring.

Sen. Doug Jones, D-AL, asked the country’s testing czar, Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir, how he plans to distribute vaccines to the most vulnerable communities, namely rural, Black and Latino populations.

“That seems to be where so much is happening right now, in the rural South,” Jones said.

“These are the people, assuming the science works out, that we want to get vaccinated first,” Giroir replied.