Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, called for the U.S. to "double down" on what he called "common-sense" public health measures on Monday as the country faces a critical juncture amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
After enormous surges in cases in the spring and summer, the U.S. was able to flatten the curve a bit in early September. According to Johns Hopkins, the U.S. dropped to a low point of about 34,000 new daily cases of COVID-19, down from a high of about 70,000 new cases in July.
However, case rates have increased gradually in recent weeks, and Fauci warned that Americans need to take public health measures seriously as cold weather forces many indoors, adding that the country is "not in a good place" ahead of winter.
"(Some states) are starting to show upticks in cases and even some increase in hospitalizations in some states," Fauci said Monday during an appearance on ABC's Good Morning America. "You don't want to be in a position like that as the weather starts getting cold."
Fauci added that despite the increase in cases, he did not believe the U.S. needed to go into another total lockdown similar to the one that took place in March and April.
"I would really like to not go there because it causes so many collateral issues and problems," Fauci said. "...obviously, if things really explode, you'd have to consider that. But we want to do everything we possibly can to avoid an absolute shutdown. In other words, get the cases under control by the common-sense types of things that we've been talking about all along, those public health measures."
However, Fauci said he was "concerned" by Florida's decision to reopen bars and restaurants. On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis moved the state into "Phase 3" of its reopening plan, meaning that restaurants, bars and hotels can operate at full capacity. Local governments are also unable to restrict a business' operating capacity unless granted permission by the state.
Fauci said he was specifically troubled by the state's reopening of bars.
"That is very concerning to me," Fauci said. "We have always said that — myself and Dr. Deborah Birx, who is the coordinator of the task force — that that is something that we really need to be careful about, because when you're dealing with community spread, and you have the type of congregate setting where people get together, particularly without masks, you're really asking for trouble."
In the past, Fauci has advocated for five common-sense public health measures that all Americans should take amid the pandemic: Wearing masks, avoiding crowds, keeping six feet apart from others, constant hand washing and opting for outdoor activities over indoor activities. He says if the U.S. continues to follow those guidelines, the country can continue to open up the economy.
"If you (open the economy) in a prudent way — in a prudent way means focus on things that are important — you can open businesses, you can do things like that," Fauci said. "But when you start opening up bars without masks or congregate settings where people are indoors without masks, that's asking for trouble."