Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, wears a protective mask during a press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, the United States, on Thursday, November 19, 2020.
Chris Kleponis | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, said Sunday that the US is entering a difficult phase of the coronavirus pandemic and that current restrictions and travel advice will be required for the Christmas holiday season.
"What we unfortunately expect in the next few weeks in December is that we may see a spike that overlays the spike we're already in," Fauci said in an interview with NBC's Meet the Press. "I don't want to scare people other than to say it's not too late to do something about it."
Fauci urged Americans to be careful when returning from Thanksgiving vacation trips wearing masks to help mitigate the spread of the virus. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned people not to travel for Thanksgiving in November, more than 9 million people traveled to airports in the week leading up to the holiday and the weekend that followed.
"I think we have to make decisions as a nation, state, city and family that we are in a very difficult time and we have to do the kind of restrictions on things we would have liked to have done, especially this holiday season because we are in a really precarious situation, "said Fauci.
Leisure travelers pass Los Angeles International Airport on Thanksgiving Eve as the COVID-19 spike worsens and stay at home restrictions increase on November 25, 2020 in West Hollywood, California.
David McNew | Getty Images News | Getty Images
America has exceeded 13 million Covid-19 cases and at least 266,000 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. As cases and deaths increase across the country, hospitals face shortages of medical staff and capacity problems as more patients join.
Fauci said colleagues and staff from various states had called him for advice and raised concerns about possible local lockdowns should hospital capacity problems worsen. Americans should take their own virus mitigation steps to help hospital systems and avoid possible blockages, Fauci added.
"We need to realize that we are able to prevent this from happening by doing the simple things we talk about without locking so we don't trigger the need to be locked," Fauci said.
Disease experts predict the country's daily deaths will rise this winter. In November alone, the US had more than 4 million new cases, which, according to the Covid Tracking Project, more than doubled the record set in October. Deaths and hospitalizations increase in new cases a few weeks after surges.
Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services, said Sunday he was concerned about an increase in cases and hospital stays due to increased travel.
Giroir, who leads the government's Covid-19 testing effort, said in an interview with CNN that he cannot predict the daily death toll, but that "a lot depends on this weekend" for the US to get bigger spikes in cases and cases to avoid deaths.
Dr. Coronavirus Task Force coordinator at the White House, Deborah Birx, said Sunday that the US enters the days after Thanksgiving with a much larger number of cases, hospitalizations, and daily deaths across the country than it did after Memorial Day- Weekend The country previously saw a surge in the virus.
"We saw what happened after Memorial Day. Now we are deeply concerned about what could happen after Thanksgiving as the number of cases – 25,000 versus 180,000 per day – makes us very concerned," Birx said in an interview with CBS News.
"We know people may have made mistakes during the Thanksgiving period," Birx said. "When you're young and gathered, you need to be tested about five to ten days later, but you have to assume you are infected and don't go around your grandparents, aunts, and others without a mask."
The growing outbreak is due to health and government officials planning to distribute the first round of vaccinations in December, with health workers among the first to receive them.
The US is also investing hundreds of millions of dollars in improving rapid tests and "flood markets in ten different states" for surge testing, according to Giroir. He said the government is working to require more home tests for widespread dissemination, but these are not yet available.
"We'd love to have hundreds of millions of these tests," Giroir said, adding that they could be available in the next few months.
Americans looking for coronavirus testing face long lines and waiting times that can last several hours in some emergency care locations as the demand for rapid tests continues to rise.
Dr. Jeffrey Le Benger, CEO of Summit CityMD, told CNBC on Friday that these long lines could last well into 2021 as he expects test demand to remain high during the holiday season.