White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that the number of daily coronavirus cases in the United States is "unacceptably high" heading into the fall season.
The U.S. is seeing roughly 40,000 new cases a day, but it needs to bring infections below 10,000, Fauci said during an interview with MSNBC.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the public's behavior over the Labor Day holiday weekend will determine how the coronavirus spreads in the U.S. through the colder months.
"We know from prior experience as you get into the holiday weekend, the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, there's a tendency of people to be careless somewhat with regard to the public health measures," he said. "I want to use this opportunity to almost have a plea to the people in this country to realize that we really still need to get our arms around this and to suppress these types of surges we've seen."
He added: "We're around 40,000 cases. That's an unacceptably high baseline. We've got to get it down to, I'd like to see 10,000 or less."
Earlier in the year, coronavirus cases in the U.S. began to pick up shortly after the Memorial Day holiday.
New cases had hit a peak in April of about 31,000 before steadily falling to about 20,000 cases a day by the end of May. But after the holiday, new cases began to climb again, surging to about 70,000 cases a day in July, according a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.
Data is again showing some worrying signs of another surge. The U.S. reported 43,253 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, pushing the seven-day average past 42,300, up 0.6% compared with a week earlier, according to Hopkins data.
U.S. health officials fear the pandemic in the U.S. could get worse as temperatures get cooler and people spend time together indoors.
Health officials have repeatedly warned that they are preparing to battle two bad viruses circulating in the fall and winter as the coronavirus outbreak runs into flu season. Health officials had hoped the coronavirus would abate during the summer months, but that has not happened. The coronavirus has continued to rapidly spread, infecting more than 6 million Americans and killing at least 184,600 as of Wednesday, Hopkins data shows.
Earlier Wednesday, the World Health Organization said health experts are concerned about the potential of a new wave of coronavirus in the Northern Hemisphere.
Fauci said Wednesday that Americans can still have an "enjoyable" weekend. However, he urged the public to follow "fundamental" health measures such as wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, washing hands and holding events outdoors instead of indoors.