Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the US needs to “hunker down and get through this fall and winter” until a vaccine arrives.

He hopes a vaccine will become available later this year or early 2021.

The US “didn’t shut down nearly as much” as Europe, Fauci said, pointing to data on grocery-store visits, park visits, and workplace attendance.

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Americans need to “hunker down and get through this fall and winter,” which includes flu season, in order to successfully wait out a vaccine, Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a panel discussion with Harvard Medical School on Thursday.

“It’s not going to be easy. We know every time we lift restrictions, we get a blip. It’s whack-a-mole,” said the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation’s top expert on the COVID-19 pandemic. Fauci pointed to marked differences between the US’s efforts to lock down and those of Europe.

While the US reduced visits to grocery stores by 10% to 20% in late March and early April, Spain and Italy reduced their visits by about 50%, according to charts using numbers from Our World In Data. Americans also trailed Spain and Italy in their efforts to decrease their visits to workplaces and parks.

“We did not shut down nearly as much,” Fauci said. 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has reached close to 30 million cases worldwide, the US has experienced the worst toll of any country on the globe. There have been 6.3 million reported cases in the US and about 190,000 reported deaths, according to CDC data. 

As influenza season approaches, Fauci said Americans need to “keeping a lid on it,” warning that, “as we get into the fall and we do more indoor things, we are likely to see upticks in COVID-19.”

Meanwhile, Australia — where flu season runs from around March through September — has had the lightest flu season in memory, Fauci said, crediting them for wearing masks, socially distancing, washing hands, and avoiding crowds. 

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With nine vaccines in phase three of clinical trials, the US can expect to find out if there is a working vaccine, or “plural vaccines,” Fauci pointed out, by around November or December. 

“I do think we will likely get a vaccine by the end of the year, beginning of 2021,” Fauci said. “And I think that’s going to be the thing that turns it around. I just think we need to hunker down.”

Watch Dr. Fauci’s full presentation with Harvard Medical School here. 

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