In an interview with The Washington Post on Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the United States is still "in the first wave" of the coronavirus pandemic. Though much of the conversation about reopening the country has centered on concerns about a second wave of novel coronavirus infections, Dr. Fauci explained that the US hasn't made it out of the first wave yet. This means the current uptick in cases nationwide is not really a second wave of infections.
Fauci told The Washington Post that in order to be out of the first wave of infections, the number of infections in the United States would need to go down drastically and stay down, as has happened in some other countries. He stressed that while some places are seeing dramatic decreases in the number of infections, other places are seeing sharp increases in their numbers. This has created a plateau in the United States' infection numbers, which indicates that the country is still in the first wave of the pandemic.
"You don't necessarily have to have a resurgence in a wave that has not even gone down," Fauci explained. "So that's the reason why I say when people talk about a second wave in the summer, you can't talk about a second wave in the summer because we're still in the first wave. We want to get that first wave down. Then we'll see if we can keep it there."Dr. Fauci also stressed that the rise in novel coronavirus cases throughout the country is not just because of increased levels of testing. He told The Washington Post that increased levels of testing definitely do lead to higher case counts because more infections are being identified. However, he added that the important number to look at is the percentage of positive tests. When the percentage of positive tests increases, that indicates a spike in infections that isn't due to increased levels of testing. Fauci noted that some states are seeing an increase in the percent of positive tests, not just higher numbers because more tests are being administered.
Throughout the interview, Dr. Fauci stressed the importance of continuing social distancing measures, saying that this is crucial to getting the US out of the first wave, and preventing a second wave. Fauci has said before that a second wave is not inevitable, as long as people don't abandon the measures they've been taking to prevent the spread of the virus.
Fauci acknowledged that people are ready to get back to their normal lives, but he told The Washington Post that if people continue to loosen restrictions, it will "set us back." He went on to say that it is possible to end this pandemic, but it will take continued sacrifices.
"This will not last forever. But the only way it is [ending] is if we address it in a way that's cautious and in a way that's prudent and continue to go in the right direction."