The United States will soon experience its fourth wave of the coronavirus, said Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President Joe Biden’s coronavirus response team and the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
"But we're really on the brink of a surge," he said in an interview with the US National Press Club. "It's really a critical time right now because we could just as easily swing up into a surge."
He said new infections had fallen since a January peak but were inching up again, registering north of 30,000 cases a day.
"We’re just essentially tempting another wave, if we get to 60,000 cases a day."
Fauci said it would be wrong for Americans to ease up on masking and social distancing on the assumption that the country was exceeding vaccination targets.
A record 4 million COVID-19 vaccines a day were administered to Americans last Thursday. Biden set a target of administering 200 million COVID-19 vaccines by the end of May, leading the global immunization drive against the virus.
Fauci, however, expressed concern that authorities’ efforts might be defeated by public complacency.
"People really have what we call COVID-19 fatigue," Fauci said, adding that easing safety measures could defeat efforts to break the back of the virus. "We just don't want to have to go back to really shutting things down. That would be terrible," he noted.
Since its global outbreak in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the United States more than any other country, with nearly 31 million Americans infected by the virus and over 550,000 dead from complications caused by the disease.