The United States is likely to see a "surge upon a surge" of Covid-19 cases following Thanksgiving and heading into Christmas as crowds of shoppers and holiday parties threaten to fuel an already raging outbreak, White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.
"If you look across the United States, we are really in a public health crisis right now," Fauci told Colorado Gov. Jared Polis during a livestream session on Tuesday. "Now that we're in the mid- to late fall, merging on into the winter, we've seen, because a variety of circumstances, a surge that has really surpassed the others."
Covid-19 cases were already on the rise before Thanksgiving when more than 3 million people traveled through the nation's airports, marking the busiest travel weekend since lockdown orders hit in mid-March. For weeks, public health experts warned that the looming winter could be the "darkest" part of the pandemic yet.
Given the number of people who traveled for Thanksgiving and shared meals with family and friends, the U.S. will likely see a "surge upon a surge" of Covid-19 cases in the coming weeks, Fauci said.
The U.S. had an average of 162,364 new Covid-19 cases every day over the past week, a dip in reporting that experts say may be temporary as health departments work through a backlog of cases from the holidays, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
"One of the things that you should keep your eye on is that as we get two to three weeks beyond the Thanksgiving holiday, that it is likely ... you're going to start seeing the curve that had gone to flatten out go back up again, unless people really have done a considerable degree of mitigating," Fauci said.
The U.S. is not out of the woods after Thanksgiving. The next 30 or more days will be a period of "precarious risk" as some people begin shopping for Christmas gifts in stores and host parties for New Year's Eve, Fauci warned.
Meanwhile, more people are falling seriously ill from the virus. More than 93,000 patients were hospitalized with Covid-19 as of Monday, a record-high count since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project, which is run by journalists at The Atlantic. The coronavirus is killing more than 1,400 people every day in the U.S. on average, according to Hopkins data.
"This is something that is quite problematic, and to say it's challenging is to really say the least," Fauci said.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reiterated that the U.S. should have enough Covid-19 vaccines for the general population heading into April 2021. It's possible that an "overwhelming majority" of Americans could be inoculated against the disease by the second quarter of next year, allowing for schools to return and for businesses to reopen safely in the fall, he said.