Washington — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned Sunday that the coming week is going to be "bad" as the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic continues to rise in the U.S., even as the number of new cases is beginning to stabilize in certain areas.
"Even though you're getting really improvement in that the number of new cases are starting to flatten, the deaths will lag by one or two weeks or more, so we need to be prepared that even though it's clear that mitigation is working, we're still going to see that tail-off of deaths," Fauci said on "Face the Nation." "So the first thing we want to look for is to see on a daily basis are the number of new cases starting to stabilize?"
Fauci said that the number of new cases has begun to stabilize in Italy and said "hopefully" New York, currently the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., will follow.
"We haven't yet reached that peak and when you do, you'll start to see a bit of a flattening and come down," he said. "Where we are right now is really approaching that apex, and that's why what [New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo] and what we're saying is that this next week is going to look bad because we're still not yet at that apex."
Fauci said that the country could see a turnaround within seven to nine days.
There are more than 312,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. and more than 8,500 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Governors of more than 40 states, including Montana, have issued stay-at-home orders for residents, and on Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans to voluntarily wear cloth or fabric masks in public to help slow the spread of the virus.
Fauci and other members of the White House's Coronavirus Task Force have warned that the coming week is going to be a painful for many Americans, and he bucked the idea that the pandemic is under control.
"That would be a false statement," he said. "We are struggling to get it under control, and that's the issue that's at hand right now."
While most governors have ordered their residents to remain in their homes and limit their social interactions, eight have still not issued stay-at-home orders. The White House, however, extended its social distancing guidelines to remain in place until the end of April.
But Fauci warned the coronavirus will likely be seasonal until there is a vaccine.
"We need to be prepared that, since it unlikely will be completely eradicated from the planet, that as we get into next season, we may see the beginning of a resurgence," he said. "And that's the reason why we're pushing so hard and getting our preparedness much better than it was, but importantly, pushing on a vaccine and doing clinical trials for therapeutic interventions so that hopefully if in fact we do see that resurgence, we will have interventions that we did not have in the beginning of the situation that we're in right now."