Story at a glance
- Anthony Fauci warned that the U.S. could see a challenging fall and winter as it is still in the first wave of coronavirus infections.
- The U.S. has ordered a historically large 200 million doses of the influenza vaccine.
As the confirmed COVID-19 case count in the U.S. hovers around 7 million, Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, says the public needs to begin preparing for the “challenge” of fall and winter.
Fall and winter are typically when influenza peaks among the U.S. population. With the coronavirus still spreading in communities across the country, duel outbreaks of the flu and COVID-19 threaten to overwhelm the health care apparatus.
As people begin to move indoors in closer spaces with circulated air, and temperatures get cooler, health experts fear COVID-19 will spread at a faster rate, similar to the flu.
Per data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu kills anywhere from 12,000 to 61,000 people annually. COVID-19 infections have already caused the deaths of 200,000 Americans, and cases are still spreading, especially in new hotspots like the Midwest.
These continued upticks lead Fauci to confirm that the U.S. is still in its first wave, since the baseline of new infections never lowered significantly.
"Rather than say, 'A second wave,' why don't we say, 'Are we prepared for the challenge of the fall and the winter?'" Fauci told CNN reporters.
Ways to manage and prepare for the upcoming fall and winter season largely revolve around the public health practices implemented over the past seven months of the pandemic.
Fauci advised that federal, state and local authorities should continue mandating the use of face masks in public and practicing hand washing and social distancing. These measures will help prevent "surges that inevitably will occur if you're not doing the kinds of public health measures that we're talking about," Fauci advised.
The CDC also recently issued guidelines for festivities and gatherings for the upcoming holidays that can help mitigate the virus spread.
Fauci also said getting a flu vaccine will help boost public immunity and reduce the risk of a severe influenza infection. To ensure the U.S. has ample influenza vaccine doses, the government has ordered a whopping 200 million doses — the highest amount ever purchased.
"If we listen to the public health measures, not only would we diminish the effect of COVID-19, we might get away with a very, very light flu season if we combine that with getting the flu vaccine," Fauci stated.