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Dr. Fauci says coronavirus pandemic is his 'worst nightmare' and 'isn't over yet'

The nation's top infectious disease expert expressed his concern as coronavirus cases continue to rise in 21 states.
/ Source: TODAY

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday the coronavirus pandemic has turned out to be his "worst nightmare" and warned that it's not over yet as 21 states across the country have seen an increase in cases.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation's top infectious disease expert spoke at a BIO Digital virtual health-care conference about the continued spread of the coronavirus across the world four months into the pandemic.

"Like oh, my goodness, when is it going to end?" he said. "It really is very complicated. So we're just at almost the beginning of really understanding."

Fauci called the virus "highly transmissible" and said that "in a period of four months, it has devastated the world."

"That’s millions and millions of infections worldwide," he continued. "And it isn’t over yet. And it’s condensed in a very, very small time frame."

He expressed his concern that the number of new cases every day across the country has plateaued instead of decreased. His worry comes as more states are lifting restrictions, including New Jersey, which has been one of the hardest-hit states in the nation.

There have been nearly 2 million confirmed cases in the United States and more than 112,000 deaths in four months, with roughly 1,000 people still dying every day across the country, according to data compiled by NBC News.

In the past week, cases are up at least 30% in Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina and North Carolina, and more than 40% in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. Texas, which was among the early states to lift stay-at-home restrictions, has reported its highest number of hospitalizations since the pandemic began.

In addition, the D.C. National Guard announced that some of its members have tested positive for COVID-19 after mobilizing to respond to protests in the nation's capital following the death of George Floyd.

Fauci's interview also came as the World Health Organization clarified Tuesday that the coronavirus can be spread by people who show no symptoms, a day after causing widespread confusion by saying that asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 was "very rare," contrary to all previous medical guidance.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove of the WHO clarified the earlier statement to say that up to 40% of infections may be due to asymptomatic spread.

"What we need to better understand is how many of the people in the population don't have symptoms, and separately, how many of those individuals go on to transmit to others?" she said Tuesday.

Fauci and Dr. Ashish Jha of the Harvard Global Health Institute said Tuesday that they both expect a coronavirus vaccine to be produced by around January 2021 and hope that it will be available for widespread use in the summer of next year. Fauci said on TODAY in April that having a vaccine by January is "doable."

Jha stressed for people to continue to be vigilant when it comes to following guidelines to slow the spread of the illness.

"The bottom line is all the scientific evidence we have right now, it's pretty clear that people without symptoms who are infected can and do spread the disease," Jha said. "So that's why you got to wear a mask, and you got to keep that physical distance."