Trump Says Virus 'Receding,' as Fauci Warns U.S. Still in midst of First Wave

President Donald Trump has said the coronavirus is "receding" in the U.S., in remarks at odds with comments made by White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci, who says the country is still in the middle of its first wave.

The U.S. has over 4.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, more than any other country in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. It also has the biggest death toll, at more than 155,000 of the global total of almost 700,000.

Trump told a press conference at the White House on Monday: "We are beginning to see evidence of significant progress nationwide. An encouraging sign, very encouraging, I have to add, that the virus is receding."

Trump said hotspots in the south and west have seen improvements from recent peaks. He said focus must now go to states with flare-ups, including Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Missouri, but said "they are going to be pretty much under control."

Americans should "continue to be vigilant" in order to prevent new hot spots emerging, the president said. He asked people to socially distance, wash their hands, and, in a departure from his previous stance on face coverings, to use a mask when crowded places cannot be avoided.

Trump's latest comments about coronavirus "receding" appear at odds with recent remarks made by Fauci.

In an interview with the editor of the JAMA medical journal on Monday, Fauci said the U.S. is "right in the middle of the first wave" and that cases are surging. According to The New York Times coronavirus tracker, there has been an average of 60,188 new coronavirus cases reported per day over the past week, down from 9 percent from two weeks prior. However, it notes that case numbers are rising in most states. On Monday, the virus was confirmed to have killed 602 people, with 47,792 new cases reported.

Fauci said the high numbers of cases must be brought down: "If we don't get them down then we're going to have a really bad situation in the fall." He said the flu season will complicate the situation.

The leading immunologist said some states, such as Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Minnesota, are seeing "the same insidious increase" in the percentage of positive tests that hotspots had seen.

Like the president, Fauci also urged people to wear masks, avoid crowds, socially distance, stay aware from venues like bars where people gather, and wash their hands.

"That sounds really simple, it's not rocket science but it really can be effective so it's in our hands," he said.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci (right), director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, looks on as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images