White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that the United States is in a "bad position" as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge in many parts of the nation.
Fauci said the U.S. never got its Covid-19 cases down to low enough levels after the initial surge in New York and other states earlier in the year. New cases had hit a peak in April of about 31,000 a day before steadily falling to about 20,000 cases a day by the end of May. After Memorial Day, new cases began to climb again, surging to about 70,000 cases a day in July before plateauing at around about 40,000 in September. They surged again and are now reaching record levels, Fauci said.
"That's a bad position to be in," the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said during an interview with JAMA. "When you look at the country and the heat map color, when you see red dots, which indicate that that part of the county, the city ... is having an uptick in cases ... all of that puts us in a precarious situation."
"We should have been way down in baseline and daily cases, and we're not," he said.
Fauci's comments came after the U.S. reported its third consecutive record in average daily Covid-19 cases. Average new U.S. cases on Tuesday hit an all-time high of 71,832, topping the prior record set on Monday, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. Figures are based on a weekly average to smooth out fluctuations in daily reporting.
Hospitalizations are on the rise as well. As of Tuesday, Covid-19 hospitalizations were growing by 5% or more in 37 states, according to a CNBC analysis of data collected by the Covid Tracking Project. Fifteen states hit record highs in hospitalizations. The increase in hospitalizations could be especially dire as flu season approaches and more people seek treatment, medical experts warn.
Some parts of the country are relying on more restrictions to curb the virus's spread. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced on Tuesday that Chicago restaurants and bars will have to close their indoor dining sections beginning this Friday. El Paso, Texas, instituted an earlier curfew to protect "overwhelmed and exhausted" hospitals and workers.
Fauci on Wednesday advocated for the use of face masks, saying using them while keeping a distance from others, avoiding crowds and planning outdoor activities "makes a difference."
Public health officials say the U.S. may not get back to "normal" until there is a widely available vaccine.
Four U.S.-backed companies are in late-stage trials testing potential vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. But Fauci said Wednesday that he doesn't expect a vaccine to be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration until January at the earliest.
"Could be January, could be later. Who knows?" Fauci said.
— CNBC's Noah Higgins-Dunn contributed to this report.