Dr. Anthony Fauci has said the U.S. is still in the first wave of its COVID-19 outbreak, and faces a “challenge” as it heads into the fall and winter.
Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN: “Rather than say, ‘A second wave,’ why don’t we say, ‘Are we prepared for the challenge of the fall and the winter?'”
The country’s top infectious disease expert said the idea of a second wave comes from the 1918 flu pandemic. After a spike in cases in the spring, the disease “literally disappeared,” followed by an “explosion” in the fall over a century ago.
Fauci also said areas that have brought down their COVID-19 cases should follow guidelines to prevent “surges that inevitably will occur if you’re not doing the kinds of public health measures that we’re talking about.” These include washing hands frequently, avoiding crowds, as well as wearing a face mask when social distancing is not possible.
Unlike some other countries, such as France and Spain, the U.S. has not brought its baseline number of cases down to level comparatively low compared to previous periods of the pandemic.
The U.S. is averaging 43,245 new cases and 732 deaths per day, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security stated on Friday, after it reached a minimum of 34,371 new cases per day on September 12. Cases have been rising since the Labor Day holiday weekend, and the U.S. has marked its highest average of daily cases since August 22.
These figures come as the U.S. continues to lead the world for fatalities and diagnoses, as it has done for months. On Friday, it recorded its 7 millionth case of a global total of 32.5 million, according to a Johns Hopkins University dashboard. It also has the highest death toll, at almost 204,000 of a worldwide toll nearing 989,000.
Fauci has previously stated he hopes to see the baseline of daily cases to drop to at least below 10,000, but said earlier in the month “I get more depressed and more depressed about the fact that we never really get down to the baseline that I’d like.” The leading immunologist has also compared the U.S. outbreak to “a game of whack-a-mole,” as one area improves and another worsens.
The northeast was the initial epicenter, with the South and West hit hard in the summer, with the Midwest now reporting the highest average daily incidence to date in an increase which has been climbing since mid-June.
Experts previously told Newsweek the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. would worsen following Labor Day celebrations, but also due to schools and colleges reopening, people heading indoors as temperatures drop, enabling the virus to spread more easily.