Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed, warned Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that the U.S. is likely headed for even higher numbers of new COVID-19 cases and daily deaths due to Christmas gatherings.
Slaoui told host Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - DC prepares for Saturday of festivals & Jan. 6 demonstration Overnight Health Care — Nicki Minaj stokes uproar over vaccines Fauci responds to Nicki Minaj's vaccine worries MORE that the ongoing surge of cases was still a result of people gathering over the Thanksgiving holiday, adding that a similar surge from families gathering for Christmas would likely compound the issue in the weeks ahead.
"It will get worse, because we are still experiencing the outcome of the Thanksgiving holidays, and the gatherings, and unfortunately there might be more with the Christmas gathering...so there will be a continuing surge," he said.
"It will be higher than it is today," Slaoui said of the death rate after Christmas, adding that he could not make specific projections.
He said, however, that the emergency clearance granted to Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine late last week meant that there is an end to the pandemic on the horizon.
"Hopefully, there is a light at the end of the tunnel," Slaoui said.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui says he believes US Covid-19 cases will get worse before it gets better because we're still experiencing "the outcome of the Thanksgiving holidays" and expects a surge following Christmas. But there's “light at the end of the tunnel,” with the latest vaccines. pic.twitter.com/0dIfAXyJFk— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) December 20, 2020
Slaoui has previously predicted that Americans would see some return to normalcy next spring, and has suggested that a vaccine could be widely available to Americans by April or May.
“I think we may start to see some impact on the most susceptible people probably in the month of January and February, but on a population basis, for our lives to start getting back to normal, we're talking about April or May,” he said during an interview earlier in December.
The U.S. has confirmed more than 17 million cases across the country, more than in any other nation. Health officials are recording thousands of deaths from the virus every day, and have seen more than 300,000 people die since the beginning of the pandemic.
Municipalities around the country continue to implement stay-at-home measures and restrictions on public life as officials try to control the spread of COVID-19, which is now worse in the U.S. than at any point previously.