Covid-19 cases continue to soar across the country and one top infectious disease expert warned Americans that the next few months will be the "darkest of the pandemic."
Health experts say the predicted fall surge is here, and rising cases across the US appear to bear that out. The US is averaging more than 55,000 new cases a day, and 10 states reported their highest single-day case counts on Friday. At least 27 states are showing an upward trend in the number of cases reported, according to a CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.
"The next six to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic," Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told NBC's"Meet the Press" on Sunday.
Osterholm highlighted the 70,000 cases of Covid-19 reported on Friday, which matched the largest number seen during the peak of the pandemic. Between now and the holidays, the US will see numbers "much, much larger than even the 67 to 75,000 cases," he said.
Despite the climbing totals, Dr. Anthony Fauci, nation's top infectious disease doctor, said a nationwide lockdown is not the way forward unless the pandemic gets "really, really bad."
"No, put shut down away and say, 'We're going to use public health measures to help us safely get to where we want to go,'" he said during an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday night.
Instead of seeing restrictions as a roadblock to an open economy, Fauci said that the fatigued American public should see public health measures as a way to safely keep it open.
Americans can help get the virus under control, experts say, by heeding guidelines touted by officials for months: avoiding crowded settings, practicing social distancing, keeping small gatherings outdoors and wearing a mask.
Osterholm, however, said the lack of a coordinated government response is hampering efforts to stem the pandemic.
"So, what we have right now is a major problem in messaging," he said. "People don't know what to believe, and that's one of our huge challenges going forward, is we've got to get the message to the public that reflects the science and reflects reality."
As of early Monday morning, there were more than 8.1 million cases and 219,674 coronavirus deaths in the US, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Fauci looks to the FDA for vaccine safety
Public health measures will need to remain in place at least until a safe and effective vaccine is available.
When one is made available, Fauci said he will take it after looking at the data -- and if it has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
"I'm going to look at the data upon which the FDA makes that decision. I trust the permanent professionals in the FDA," Fauci said in the "60 Minutes" interview.
But Osterholm said that vaccines won't be available "in any meaningful way" until the third quarter of next year, he said, and even when they are, half the US population is skeptical of even taking one.
The vaccine development process has stirred controversy as politicians have called for one to be released quickly, prompting some to question if the politicization of the issue will affect the safety and efficacy of a possible vaccine. But many health experts have said that the agencies in charge will hold to the high vaccine standards.
"The commissioner of the FDA has been very public that he will not let politics interfere. We have an advisory committee to the FDA who are made up of independent people who I trust," Fauci said.
"Put all those things together, if the final outcome is that the FDA approves it, I will take it."
In an open letter published Friday by Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla, the company said it plans to apply for emergency use authorization from the FDA for its Covid-19 vaccine as early as November.
"Assuming positive data, Pfizer will apply for Emergency Authorization Use in the US soon after the safety milestone is achieved in the third week of November," the letter said.
But first, Bourla wrote, the vaccine should prove to be safe and effective in preventing the disease.
"And finally, we must demonstrate that the vaccine can be consistently manufactured at the highest quality standards," Bourla wrote.
Once a vaccine is approved in the US, CVS and Walgreens pharmacies have been designated to help distribute free vaccines to long-term care facilities, federal officials confirmed. It will be up to the two drug chains to figure out how to deliver the vaccines, including cold storage requirements and personal protective equipment.
Florida reports more than 2,000 cases a day for almost a week
New coronavirus cases have been climbing across nearly all of the country over the last week.
Florida's daily case count has remained above 2,000 for 6 days in a row, CNN's tally shows.
The state is among 27 that have seen a 10% increase or greater of average daily cases over the week. The others are: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Over the weekend the significant surge in case counts continued, with counts reaching levels not seen since the middle of the summer surge. Sunday had 48,210 new cases nationwide, which is the second most reported cases for a Sunday since July 26.
The seven-day average of new cases has climbed above 56,000, a level not seen in the past 12 weeks, and is 14% higher week over week, according to John Hopkins data.
Florida's health officials reported 2,539 new cases of Covid-19 and 50 additional deaths on Sunday, according to the Florida Department of Health. The state now has a total of 755,020 coronavirus cases, according to data from the state health department.
Among those who have tested positive in the state are the elections supervisor in Okaloosa County and another employee, according to a press release posted on the office's Facebook page.
Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux will isolate and work remotely for the "recommended time period," the release says.
Due to the positive test, the elections office in Crestview, which also serves as an early voting polling place, will close until further notice. There are four other locations in the county where people can vote early.
Okaloosa County is located in the Florida panhandle and has more than 150,000 registered voters.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story overstated the number of coronavirus cases that had been reported in the US as of early Monday. More than 8.1 million cases had been reported.