Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned Wednesday that Americans should be prepared for a second wave of novel coronavirus infections in the winter, even as the epidemic appears to have hit its peak in parts of the country.
"I think we have to assume this is like other respiratory viruses and there will be a seasonality to it," Redfield told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview on "Good Morning America."
"Until we see it, we don't know for certain," he added. "But i think it's critical that we plan this virus is likely to follow a seasonality pattern similar to flu, and we're going to have another battle with it upfront and aggressively next winter."
It's important the country takes the time now to improve its testing capacity and expand public health capacity so that health workers can detect cases early, conduct contact tracing and isolate potentially infected individuals.
"I call it block and tackle," Redfield said. "The outbreak this year got ahead of that, so we went into full mitigation and we lost the ability to use critical public health tools. We are working hard to augment them now so that, as we get into the next season, we'll be able to stay in high containment mode while we complement that with some continued mitigation strategies."
Redfield praised members of the public for heeding stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures.
"When we did our original models looking at this outbreak, we were looking at, you know, up to 2.2 million people that might have died before the fall," he said. "And when you see, even though 26,000 is still an enormous loss of human life, it really is a tribute to the mitigation that the American public did."
"It's really a testament to the sacrifice the American public has taken and the leadership that we've had in a number of these states to give that example," he added.
Redfield said the CDC and the White House coronavirus task force are "aggressively working through the best options as to help assist the states as they begin to reopen our country one state at a time." The process is ongoing and it will be a state-by-state decision, according to Redfield.
"I think we will see some states that the governors feel that are ready and we're poised to assist them with that re-opening," he added. "And I think you'll see that the plan in terms of how that will happen will be finalized by the White House task force in the days ahead."
When asked about President Donald Trump's decision to halt U.S. funding to the World Health Organization and whether he thinks the agency failed in its outbreak response, Redfield was reluctant to criticize the WHO and instead said, "I think I'd like to do the postmortem on this outbreak once we get through it together."
"The CDC and WHO has had a long history of working together in multiple outbreaks throughout the world, as we continue to do in this one, and so we've had a very productive public health relationship," he added. "We continue to have that."