Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that he felt “depressed” when looking at coronavirus data and warned that the United States’ first wave of infections never ended.

During a Harvard Medical School Grand Rounds talk, Fauci presented a slide comparing coronavirus cases in the United States to those in the European Union. Even during lockdown, he pointed out, the U.S. always had an high baseline of cases ― around 20,000 cases a day, compared to the EU’s baseline, which went below 10,000 cases a day.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases stressed that efforts to reopen the economy had caused surges in both regions, but that the U.S. was undoubtedly the “worst hit country in the world.” He called its inability to lower its baseline “extraordinarily unacceptable.”

“Every day when we get with the task force and we go over the data from the night before, I keep looking at that curve [of COVID-19 cases], and I get more depressed and more depressed about the fact that we never really get down to the baseline that I’d like,” Fauci said when answering a question about a potential second surge of the coronavirus in the U.S.

“I don’t talk about second surges because we’re still in the first surge,” he added. “It isn’t as if we went way down.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci at a House hearing in July. He said this week that he continues to get "more depressed and more depressed aKevin Dietsch/Pool via REUTERS Dr. Anthony Fauci at a House hearing in July. He said this week that he continues to get “more depressed and more depressed about the fact that we never really get down to the baseline that I’d like” when it comes to coronavirus cases in the United States. 

Fauci argued that the U.S. had failed to shut down its public areas and workplaces to the extent that some countries in the EU did, including Italy and Spain. He also highlighted some southern states that opened early and then saw a spike in cases.

The infectious disease expert was slightly more optimistic when talking about a vaccine, and predicted that one would be developed by the end of the year or the beginning of 2021.

“I think that’s going to be the thing that turns it around,” Fauci said. “I just think we need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter, because it’s not going to be easy. We know every time we lift restrictions, we get a blip. It’s Whac-A-Mole, it really is.”

However, he said Friday in an interview with MSNBC that it would still likely take several months to effectively vaccinate most Americans.

“But by the time you mobilize the distribution of the vaccine and get a majority or more of the population vaccinated and protected, that’s likely not going to happen until the end of 2021,” he said. “If you’re talking about getting back to a degree of normality prior to COVID, it’s going to be well into 2021, toward the end of 2021.”

Watch Fauci’s entire Harvard Medical School talk here.

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