Credit: Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Cold and flu season could exacerbate the pandemic.

As of the most recent reports, there are currently over 63 million reported cases of coronavirus-induced COVID-19 in the populace of the United States. Since the beginning of the pandemic, at least 191,789 US residents have died from the virus. Experts believe that the actual number of cases in the country could be greater than the reported amount due to asymptomatic carriers. Despite these worrying numbers, however, many hot spots for the virus are currently on a downward trend. 28 states, including Florida and California, have been reporting fewer cases, while other states are holding steady. According to CDC Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, though, it is too early to become complacent.

It is Dr. Fauci’s belief that the coming of winter could cause a new surge in COVID-19 cases around the country. There are several factors to this: first, as the weather gets colder, people will likely spend more time inside. If they’re alone, there’s no concern, but if they’re with others that they aren’t living with, the virus could spread more easily, similar to the outbreaks that have originated in bars and events. Secondly, winter is accompanied by flu season, and as medical researchers have confirmed, it is possible to be simultaneously ill with the flu and COVID-19. These mixed cases, as well as an influx of individual cases, could put a greater strain on the already-stretched healthcare system.

“We need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter because it’s not going to be easy,” Dr. Fauci said Thursday.

Credit: Amanda Mustard/The New York Times

New cases of COVID-19 are currently averaging around 36,000 a day, an improvement over August’s numbers, but not the baseline Dr. Fauci was hoping to reach. “I keep looking at that curve and I get more depressed and more depressed about the fact that we never really get down to the baseline that I’d like,” he said.

Medical experts have stressed that all Americans need to wear masks in order to prevent the virus from spreading out of control. It is estimated that if 95% of Americans wear masks while in public, at least 120,000 deaths could be prevented by January 1.

“When you look at countries where the mortality is a fraction of what it is in the United States, the common theme from the very beginning of the pandemic was universal masking,” Dr. Jonathan Reiner, CNN medical analyst and professor of medicine at George Washington University, said.