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Fauci says second wave of coronavirus infections is 'not inevitable': 'We can prevent this'

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight health care: AstraZeneca says its COVID-19 vaccine candidate is up to 90 percent effective It's time for COVID-19 disaster relief ... for mothers Fauci: US could see 'well over 300,000' COVID-19 deaths MORE, the nation's top expert on infectious diseases, said Wednesday that a second wave of coronavirus infections is "not inevitable" if people are vigilant about proper mitigation efforts. 

"We often talk about the the possibility of a second wave, or of an outbreak when you’re reopening," Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, said on CNN. "We don’t have to accept that as an inevitability."

"And particularly when people start thinking about the fall. I want people to really appreciate that, it could happen but it is not inevitable," he added. 

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Last month, Fauci had said in multiple interviews that a second wave of COVID-19 was indeed unavoidable. 

"It’s inevitable that the coronavirus will return next season. ... When it does, how we handle it, will determine our fate,” he told NBC News.

Fauci and other health experts have repeatedly voiced caution about plans to allow nonessential businesses and other public venues to reopen, stressing that widespread testing availability and a comprehensive contact-tracing program need to be in place.

On Wednesday, he said he was encouraged by the progress states and the federal government were making in that regard. 

"I’m feeling better about it as we go by with the weeks that go by, and we see that we’re getting more and more capability of testing,” he said, adding that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has built a stronger workforce to help with "identification, isolation, and contact tracing."

"If we do the kinds of things that we’re putting in place now, to have the workforce, the system, and the will to do the kinds of things that are the clear and effective identification, isolation and contact tracing, we can prevent this second wave that we’re talking about, if we do it correctly," he continued. 

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As of Wednesday morning, the U.S. had reported 1.6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and roughly 99,000 deaths from it, according to a Johns Hopkins University database. 

The pandemic caused state leaders to institute stay-at-home orders, leading to a mass closure of schools and nonessential businesses. Most states have begun gradually lifting some restrictions in recent weeks. 

The loosening of restrictions, coupled with photos of crowds over Memorial Day weekend, caused top Trump administration health officials to emphasize the need to keep federal health guidelines in mind. 

Fauci echoed some of those concerns, noting that people should not become "overconfident" amid reopenings because "the effect of spreading is not going to be seen for two, three or maybe even more weeks."

His comments came just days after the emergencies head at the World Health Organization warned that countries seeing a decline in virus cases could experience an “immediate second peak” if they lifted social-distancing restrictions too early. 

“When we speak about a second wave classically what we often mean is there will be a first wave of the disease by itself, and then it recurs months later. And that may be a reality for many countries in a number of months’ time,” Mike Ryan said, according to Reuters.  

“But we need also to be cognizant of the fact that the disease can jump up at any time," he added. "We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now it is going to keep going down and we are get a number of months to get ready for a second wave. We may get a second peak in this wave.”