During a US Chamber of Commerce event, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director, Robert Redfield, said that the US could see another 200,000 COVID-19 deaths in the next three months if people don’t take prevention measures seriously, including wearing masks and physical distancing.
"The reality is December and January and February are going to be rough times. I actually believe they're going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation," Redfield said Wednesday during the event, the Hill reported.
Redfield’s warning comes as COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the country, with at least 2,461 new deaths reported Wednesday, according to the CDC. US states with the highest number of cases include Texas, California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Georgia, in that order, Worldometer shows.
Hospitals in the US are struggling to keep up with the number of patients, with almost 100,000 people hospitalized, according to the latest data by the COVID Tracking Project.
"I do think unfortunately, before we see February, we could be close to 450,000 Americans dead from this virus,” Redfield added.
"The truth is, mitigation works. The challenge with this virus is, it's not going to work if half of us do what we need to do. It's not even going to work, probably if three quarters of us do what we need to do. This virus really is going to require all of us to really be vigilant," Redfield added, also noting that he is disappointed by the politicization of mask wearing and conflicting messaging.
"The time for debating whether or not masks work [...] is over. We clearly have scientific evidence," Redfield said, referring to a CDC study in Kansas that revealed that areas with mask mandates saw decreases in coronavirus transmission compared to areas without mandates, which saw a 100% increase in transmission. "When you really want to get everybody on board, you've got to have clear, unified reinforced messaging. And I think the fact that we were still arguing in the summer about whether or not masks work was a problem".
Two US pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have completed phase 3 trials for COVID-19 vaccine candidates. The FDA is expected to review this month applications of emergency authorization made by both companies.
Earlier this week, CNBC reported that United Airlines had carried the Pfizer vaccine from Belgium's Brussels to Chicago, Illinois, on Friday, in preparation for early distribution.
So far, Russia is the only country to approve a vaccine for the virus. The drug, named Sputnik V, has 91.4% efficacy 28 days after the first dose and a 95% efficacy 42 days after the first dose.