It's been nine months since the coronavirus reached the US, but Dr. Anthony Fauci was forced again this week to issue dire warnings about the state of the pandemic.
With infections rising rapidly around the country, the nation's top infectious disease expert warned that we likely won't see "some semblances of normality" in the US until 2022.
The comments come as President Donald Trump asserts on the campaign trail that the US is "rounding the turn" on the virus.
But Fauci said on CNBC that "we are on a very difficult trajectory," and if things don't change, "there's going to be a whole lot of pain in this country with regard to additional cases and hospitalizations and deaths."
Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wednesday sounded the alarm as the coronavirus continues to surge across the US.
Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, warned — again — that the pandemic may prevent Americans from returning to normal life until late 2021 or even early 2022.
"I think it will be easily by the end of 2021 and perhaps into the next year before we start having some semblances of normality," Fauci said during a University of Melbourne panel interview.
"If normal means you can get people into theater without worrying," he continued, "if you can get restaurants to open at almost full capacity, if you can have sporting events to be able to played with spectators, either in the stands or in the arena, then I think that's going to be well, well, into 2021 — and perhaps beyond."
Also, Fauci said, normalcy will likely be based on the "successful implementation of a COVID-19 vaccine campaign globally."
"That will not happen abruptly, it will happen gradually," he added.
A vaccine is still expected to be available "in the next few months," though widespread vaccinations for the general public won't likely happen until at least mid-2021, Fauci said.
The reminder came as daily infections are ballooning around the country, with the average case count higher right now than at any point since the pandemic began. Currently, the US is experiencing a seven-day rolling average of 75,561 cases per day — a 41% increase from two weeks ago, according to The New York Times.
As of Thursday, nearly 8.9 million people have contracted the disease and over 227,800 have died in the worst coronavirus outbreak on earth, based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Following public health guidelines, including mask-wearing, social distancing, avoiding crowds, and regular hand-washing, remains essential to tackling virus transmission, Fauci said.
"If everybody had done that uniformly, I don't think we would've been in the position we're in right now," he said.
The warnings also come as President Donald Trump continues to downplay the pandemic and attempts to steer attention away from it. At a North Carolina campaign rally on Saturday, the president, who has called the media "losers" for covering the pandemic, wrongly asserted that the US is "rounding the turn" on the virus. And the Trump administration is reportedly pushing the controversial herd immunity strategy, which health officials warn could result in skyrocketing infections and deaths.
Earlier this week, the White House issued a press release detailing Trump's accomplishments with "ending the COVID-19 pandemic" on its list. With infections on the rise, communications director Alyssa Farah was forced to course-correct, telling Fox News that the document was "poorly worded."
She added: "The intent was to say that it is our goal to end the virus. But what I would say is this: because of the president's leadership, we are rounding the corner on the virus."
For his part, Fauci described a very different reality during a CNBC interview on Wednesday.
"If things do not change, if they continue on the course we're on, there's going to be a whole lot of pain in this country with regard to additional cases and hospitalizations and deaths," he said.
Fauci added: "We are on a very difficult trajectory. We are going in the wrong direction."
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