The United States will need to bring its daily coronavirus case count down to 10,000 by September to gain some level of control over the pandemic before fall, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, said Monday.
The country continues to log 50,000 to 60,000 new cases a day, suggesting it is "right in the middle of the first wave," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a livestream with the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Howard Bauchner.
"If we don't get them down, then we're going to have a really bad situation in the fall," Fauci said.
The prediction is based on two factors: the expected flu season, which sickens thousands of people in the U.S. each year, and cooler weather, forcing people indoors.
Fauci noted that the virus follows a "real and potential pattern," beginning with an early increase in the percentage of positive tests, followed by a surge in cases. That same "insidious increase in percent positive" that was detected across the South and the West several weeks ago is now being seen in other states, he said.
That's a sign that "you may need to pause, you may need to drop back a little bit," he said. "I don't think you necessarily have to revert to going all the way back to closing."
Fauci urged the country to "show a degree of consistency" regarding masks, social distancing and hand-washing, as COVID-19 cases continued to rise rapidly in many states across the South, Midwest and Northeast.
"It's not rocket science," he said.
The only way to stop the virus is with countermeasures. "The virus, if left to its own devices, is going to keep resurging," unless everyone adheres to public health guidance, such as physical distancing of 6 feet and wearing masks in public.
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As of Monday afternoon, 4.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported in the U.S., with more than 156,000 deaths — by far the largest numbers for both case counts and deaths globally.
"We're not perfect, we did not do everything right, but nobody has done everything right," Fauci said. "Let's just be humble enough to know that we all could have done better."