The U.S. is at risk of experiencing the worst fall health season that its ever had if more people don’t follow coronavirus prevention measures, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned this week.
“We’re kind of in a war,” Dr. Robert Redfield told WebMD in an interview Wednesday. In order for the nation to safely get through it, he advised that the public do four things: Wear a face mask, stay 6 feet away from others, frequently wash hands and avoid large crowds.
“I’m not asking some of America to do it — we’ve all got to do it,” he said. He added: “But if we don’t do that, as I said last April, this could be the worst fall, from a public health perspective, that we’ve ever had.”
President Donald Trump has resisted calls to enact a nationwide face mask mandate and has instead left the decision up to state governors.
Redfield’s caution included consideration of the coming flu season, which he said could double hospital bed requirements across the country.
“We’re going to have COVID in the fall. We’re going to have flu in the fall,” he said. He stressed the need for the public to get the flu vaccine.
“By getting vaccinated, you can protect your children,” he said. “When we look at the mortality that we see with flu, one thing is for certain. The kids that get vaccinated, they basically get protected against death.”
The CDC’s website advised that people get vaccinated in September or October, especially those facing a higher risk of serious complications from the virus. Earlier than this may reduce protection against infection later in the flu season.
Asked about a potential vaccine for the coronavirus, Redfield said he is “very cautiously optimistic” that one or more vaccines will be deployed before the first of the year.
“I’ve never seen vaccine development move like this,” he said of the federal government’s vaccine program, Operation Warp Speed, which has set a goal of delivering 300 million doses of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine by January.
Russia on Tuesday announced that it created the world’s first coronavirus vaccine that’s ready for use, though it has not completed clinical trials. The announcement was met with international scrutiny and skepticism.
Potential vaccines must complete three phases of trials before they can be rolled out, the World Health Organization said.
“Having a vaccine” and “proving that a vaccine is safe and effective are two different things,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC News this week.
“I hope that the Russians have actually definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective,” Fauci added. “I seriously doubt that they’ve done that.”
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.