WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that the United States could be in for the "worst fall from a public health perspective" we've ever seen if Americans don't follow COVID-19 safety measures.
Dr. Robert Redfield told WebMD that all Americans need to do four simple things to help the fight against coronavirus: wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands and be smart about crowds.
"And I keep telling people, I'm not asking some of America to do it. We all got to do it," Redfield said. "This is one of those interventions that got to be 95%, 96%, 97%, 98%, 99%, if it's going to work for us."
The CDC director acknowledged widespread mask use has been varied in different cities and that's one of the areas he thinks needs to improve.
"You do those four things, it will bring this outbreak down. But if we don't do that, as I said last April, this could be the worst fall from a public health perspective, we've ever had," Redfield explained.
He added that flu shots will be crucial this year to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed by flu and COVID-19 cases. He also said he remains "cautiously optimistic" that they'll have one or more vaccines deployed before January.
However, President Trump said on Saturday that he disagreed with Redfield's outlook for a grim public health season. During a news conference at the Trump golf club in New Jersey, he said that "it can't be compared to 1917," apparently referring to the Spanish flu pandemic about 100 years ago.
The CDC says that an estimated 500 million people, or one-third of the world’s population became infected in that pandemic, and there were at least 50 million deaths worldwide with about 675,000 in the United States.
As of Saturday, the Johns Hopkins University count of the current pandemic said there were more than 21 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide with 769,000 deaths. The U.S. has the most cases in the world with over 5 million, and 169,000 people who've died of the coronavirus.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems -- including children -- it can cause more severe illness and death.