Fauci 'Depressed' U.S. Can't Get New Coronavirus Cases Down: 'We're Still in the First Surge'

Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he feels "depressed" when he looks at data on the number of new coronavirus cases reported in the U.S. each day.

"I keep looking at that curve [of reported cases], and I get more depressed and more depressed about the fact that we never really get down to the baseline that I'd like," the White House coronavirus task force member and a top infectious disease expert said during a Harvard Medical School Grand Rounds session.

Fauci said the U.S. is the "worst hit country in the world" and has not been successful in containing its outbreak. According to Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has reported over 6.3 million coronavirus cases and over 191,000 deaths.

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A graph from the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard, showing how the reported cases in the U.S. has not dropped below around 17,000 since late March. Johns Hopkins University

The decades-long director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said the country's inability to get below a baseline level of 20,000 daily new cases since late March—spiking to 70,000 cases and over 1,000 deaths earlier in the summer—as "extraordinarily unacceptable."

Earlier this month, Fauci told MSNBC he hopes to get the number of new infections below 10,000 per day.

Asked what he envisions for the future of the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak, Fauci told the Harvard session: "I don't talk about second surges because we're still in the first surge. It isn't as if we went way down."

He said the economy must be reopened correctly or the country will see more surges—like those recently recorded in the Midwest and southern states. "And now, if you look at the map, it's Montana, North and South Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa. Those are the ones at are surging."

Fauci described the current situation as "whack-a-mole," where one state improves and another worsens.

And as the U.S. heads into the fall, there will likely been an uptick in COVID-19 cases as people tend to congregate indoors more, he said. "I just think we need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter because it's not going to be easy."

Similarly to previous interviews, he expressed hope that a vaccine will be able to tackle the pandemic, and will be available by early 2021. "What I would like to see is keeping the lid on, keeping the baseline down until we get a vaccine," he said. "I think that's going to be the thing that turns it around."

Fauci also said the measures being taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus could lead to a mild flu season, as seen in Australia which had its lightest season in living memory.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington, DC, on June 30, 2020. AL DRAGO/AFP via Getty Images