Fauci warns US needs to 'hunker down' for fall, winter: 'It's not going to be easy'

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciControversial CDC guidelines were written by HHS officials, not scientists: report Overnight Health Care: Ex-Pence aide backs Biden over virus response | Trump's sharp words put CDC director on hot seat | Trump coronavirus adviser threatens to sue Stanford researchers Trump coronavirus adviser threatens to sue Stanford researchers MORE, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, warned Thursday that the U.S. should prepare for a difficult few months in the fight against COVID-19 as flu season approaches. 

“We need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter because it’s not going to be easy,” Fauci said during a panel discussion with doctors from Harvard Medical School.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases went on to warn against underestimating the pandemic’s potential to cause continued destruction. 

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Fauci, who was one of the world’s leading AIDS researchers in the 1980s, compared the coronavirus pandemic to the early days of HIV when the epidemic started with a few gay men to decades later with millions of deaths and infections. 

“We've been through this before,” he said. “Don't ever, ever underestimate the potential of the pandemic. And don't try and look at the rosy side of things."

His comments come after tapes released Wednesday by journalist Bob Woodward revealed that President TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response MORE admitted in an interview to purposely downplaying the pandemic in the early months of the virus because he didn’t want to “create a panic.” 

During Thursday’s panel, Fauci added that vaccine trials are “progressing very well” and repeated his prediction that one will likely be available by the end of the year or by early 2021. 

Fauci also reiterated that different U.S. cities should expect to see post-Labor Day surges, with the expert saying last week that the country was heading into the fall with an “unacceptably high” level of COVID-19 cases. 

“We're right around 40,000 new cases, that's an unacceptably high baseline,” Fauci said at the time. “We've got to get it down, I'd like to see it 10,000 or less, hopefully less.”