If Americans do not follow coronavirus prevention measures such as wearing masks and social distancing, the country could be in for the “worst fall” in history, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned on Thursday.
In an interview with WebMD, CDC director Robert Redfield said a viral outbreak, along with the upcoming flu season, could create the “worst drop” we “have ever had”.
Cold weather in the fall is likely to drive more people inside, with health experts saying COVID-19 spreads more easily.
Tracking flu and COVID-19 outbreaks can overwhelm hospitals and drain resources, threatening life and pandemic response.
Redfield said the CDC is urging people to get a flu shot and the agency has purchased an additional 10 million doses of the vaccine – compared to the typical 500,000 – to make sure states have enough to cover uninsured adults.
“I’m trying to tell the American public, please do not leave this important American medical achievement on the shelf,” Redfield said.
“We will have COVID in the fall. We will have the flu in the fall,” he added, adding that if people are vaccinated against the flu, they may be able to release a hospital bed for someone infected with COVID-19.
Redfield said conditions will depend on whether people follow the guidelines: wear face masks, stay six feet away from others, wash your hands often with soap and warm water, and avoid large crowds, especially indoors.
“I’m not asking some of America to do it – we all have to do it,” he said.
More than 5 million people have been infected with COVID-19 in the US, and more than 165,000 have died. Wednesday alone had 1,499 deaths, the deadliest day since May.
Earlier this summer, states rushed to reopen a large number of businesses even though the virus was not under control. People are tired of staying inside, in some cases even ignoring basic prevention guidelines.
Wearing masks has become a political issue, and some states and counties have actively barred local leaders from mandating them in public spaces. At the same time, the Trump administration and numerous state leaders are putting pressure on schools to reopen in areas where the virus is still growing.