Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned Monday that the U.S. is “at the highest baseline we’ve ever been” for coronavirus cases and that “no matter how you look at it, it’s not good news.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US reported record single-day increases in new COVID-19 cases, with more than 80,000 new cases identified on both Friday and Saturday. The previous record, set in July, was just under 75,000 new cases in a single day.

The surge has mainly occurred in the Midwest, with Wisconsin and Illinois each accounting for around 30,000 cases in the past week — matching the level of infection rate in California, which has over twice the population of those two states combined. North and South Dakota have the most cases per capita, followed by Wisconsin and Montana. But cases are rising in states all over the country as well.

Fauci told Yahoo that he is concerned about the effects of the impending winter on COVID-19, and previously noted that Americans should prepare to “hunker down.”

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“Now, as we’re getting into the cold weather, we came back up again to the worst that we’ve ever had, which was over 80,000 per day,” he said, adding that he views the surge as “an elongated and an exacerbation of the original first wave.”

“We’ve never really had waves, in the sense of up and then down to a good baseline,” Fauci said. “So you know, it’s kind of semantics. You want to call the third wave or an extended first wave. No matter how you look at it, it’s not good news.”

The hospitalization tallies for COVID-19 have also been on the rise in most states, with more than 44,000 people currently hospitalized — two-thirds of what was recorded during the July peak and the highest number since mid-August — according to the COVID Tracking Project.

While the U.S. daily COVID-19 death toll over the past week is fortunately lower than what was reported during the spring and summer surges, the uptick in hospitalizations has worried medical professionals.

Fauci appeared hopeful about the ongoing vaccine trials, but encouraged Americans not to rely on the prospect of a vaccine and instead continue to social distance and wear masks.

“Luckily, despite the fact that we are dealing with a very, very challenging period right now, even more so as we enter the cooler months of the fall and the colder months of the winter, that vaccines are proceeding at a very good pace,” Fauci said on Monday, estimating that the results of the vaccine trials will be ready in late November or early December.

He continued: “I’m absolutely convinced that as a nation, if we pull together, and do some fundamental common-denominator public health measures, that we can get through this with a lot of help in the future from vaccines and adequate therapies.”

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