Fauci says U.S. 'still knee-deep in the first wave' of COVID-19 as daily cases top 50K

Top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, M.D., said the U.S. is not in the midst of a second wave of COVID-19 cases for the simple reason the first wave never ended.

Fauci spoke Monday on a National Institutes of Health (NIH) livestream with agency Director Francis Collins on the state of testing, treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. His comments come as several states have reached record-level cases in the past few weeks.

“We are still knee-deep in the first wave of this,” Fauci said. “This would not be considered a wave. It was a resurgence of infections superimposed on a baseline that really never got down to where we wanted to go.”

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Fauci said that the U.S. was averaging roughly 20,000 new cases a day, and now that number has ballooned to 57,500 cases.

States such as Florida, Texas and Arizona are experiencing massive spikes of cases after their state and local governments decided to reopen economies.

“It is a serious situation that we have to address immediately,” Fauci said of the new record-breaking spate of cases.

Fauci, the head of NIH's National Institutes of Allergic and Infectious Diseases, also gave an update on the status of one of the vaccine candidates that will start a massive phase 3 trial of 30,000 people, 15,000 of which will get the test vaccine and the rest getting a placebo.

Collins said there will be notices in COVID-19 hot spots for vaccine enrollment.

While he attributed the spate of cases to states restarting their economies too quickly, Fauci denied that public health experts are opposed to reopening.

“We should use public health effort as a vehicle and a pathway to get to safe reopening,” he said. “It is not an obstacle. It is important we don’t create this binary type thing where it’s us against them.”

If public health initiatives such as social distancing, contact tracing and face masks are done carefully, they can facilitate opening and not be an obstacle to it, he added.