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

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTrump, Biden clash over coronavirus response, mounting death toll Stahl tells Pence he and Trump 'insulted 60 Minutes' by giving 'campaign speeches' How Trump lost to the coronavirus 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 TrumpMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' 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.”