The United States must cut the daily number of new COVID-19 cases by at least 30,000 to avoid a disastrous flu season, the nation's top infectious disease expert said Wednesday.
"We're right around 40,000 new cases" a day, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on "Andrea Mitchell Reports."
"That's an unacceptably high baseline. We have got to get it down. I would like to see it 10,000 or less," he added.
It's not a new goal; Fauci suggested in early August that the nation needed to reduce daily diagnoses to less than 10,000 by the fall.
One major reason to bring the daily case counts down as fall approaches is that doctor's offices and hospital systems will no doubt soon face an influx of flu patients.
Influenza stretches the nation's health systems every year. As many as 56 million people were diagnosed with the flu in this country over the 2019-2020 flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, resulting in up to 26 million doctor's office visits and 740,000 hospitalizations.
If daily COVID-19 cases are in the tens of thousands during flu season, health care systems will be overwhelmed.
What's more, "there are real medical complexities of getting two major, significant, viral outbreaks that look very similar for many people, to co-circulate," said Cameron Wolfe, an infectious diseases expert and an associate professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine.
"That causes great challenges when clinicians face a patient where they're not sure if it's influenza or COVID," Wolfe said.
Holiday weekend hurdle
The nation will have to make it through Labor Day weekend with minimal spread to meet Fauci's goal of less than 10,000 new cases of COVID-19 a day.
"We know from prior experience that, when you get into holiday weekends — the Fourth of July, Memorial Day — there is a tendency of people to be careless somewhat with regard to the public health measures that we keep recommending over and over again," Fauci said.
Cases spiked in many places after the long weekends, including in Arizona, California, Texas and other Southern and Western states.
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"You can have an enjoyable weekend," Fauci said, but pleaded with Americans to engage in classic infectious disease control measures: wear masks, keep physically distant, avoid crowds, spend time outside more than inside, and wash hands.
"We really still need to get our arms around this, and to suppress the types of surges that we have seen," he said.