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'Precarious risk' for COVID-19 infections over next 30 days, Fauci says

NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci joined Gov. Jared Polis to discuss COVID-19 at a Tuesday news conference.

DENVER — The nation's top infectious disease expert joined Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) Tuesday afternoon to hammer home the need to take action as the state and nation face a national public health crisis and wait for a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.

"Colorado is not alone in seeing a spike in cases," said  Dr. Anthony Fauci. "If you look across the country right now, we are really in a public health crisis because we are having a surge the likes of which is worse than those we saw in the late winter or early spring."

Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). He joined Polis for the virtual news conference at noon Tuesday.

"We can do it, we just need to hang together a little bit longer," Fauci said. "Not only Colorado, so many states are on the brink of being overrun with regard to their capability of taking care of people in a proper way, particularly in intensive care."

Fauci said Sunday that the U.S. may see "surge upon a surge" of the coronavirus over the coming weeks, and he does not expect current recommendations around social distancing to be relaxed before Christmas. He reiterated that Tuesday, and said nationally we're seeing between 100,000 and 200,000 cases per day and up to 2,000 deaths

"The numbers were already going up," he said. "Instead of thinking in terms of the Thanksgiving holiday, and then the Christmas holiday as two separate events, I think we're going to be looking at 30 or more days of a period of time of precarious risk."

He said until the vaccines are ready and enough people get them, we must take action to reduce that risk and stressed that's it's not too late to slow the spread.

"Uniform wearing of masks, physical distancing, avoiding crowds and congregate settings particularly indoors, doing outdoors — and we realize sometimes the weather does not permit this, but as much as you possibly can outdoors versus indoors, and wash your hands frequently," Fauci said. "Avoid the things that we know are pleasurable and desirable, though they're dangerous now."

He said once the vaccine is out we can "crush the outbreak." He called the progress on the vaccine "unprecedented" and "extraordinary" and attempted to calm the nerves of those who might be hesitant to get it. He said that he would be getting it when it's available to him.

"I want to encourage the people of Colorado to look at the data that's transparent and that's independent and make the decision when the vaccine becomes available to the people of Colorado, please get vaccinated for your own safety and for the safety of your loved ones," Fauci said.

Fauci also touched on the effectiveness of masks and said they're not 100% effective, but without them, the situation would be much worse than it is now.

"I will guarantee you, if no one wore masks, because we have data to prove that, that you would see many many more acquisitions and transmissions of infections," he said. "So we don't want the expectation of the perfect to be the enemy of the good that masks can do."

Polis and First Gentleman Marlon Reis both tested positive for COVID-19 over Thanksgiving weekend, according to a post on the governor's Facebook page Saturday night. The post said Polis and Reis are asymptomatic and will continue to isolate in their home.

Polis had been quarantining since Wednesday after being exposed to someone else who had tested positive. When asked Tuesday how he contracted the novel coronavirus, Polis declined to provide a specific answer.

"I'm certainly not out of the woods and neither is Marlon," Polis said. "As we know, this can take a different turn after a couple of days, but so far I'm feeling really good."

The Facebook post said the governor would continue to be closely monitored, and that he will continue to fulfill his duties and responsibilities and work remotely.

Polis also again stopped short of criticizing Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who ignored his own recommendations and guidelines to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday.

RELATED: 'It was a mistake that I deeply regret': Denver Mayor Michael Hancock talks about his decision to travel for Thanksgiving

"Of course, I wish that less people traveled over Thanksgiving, and that includes the mayor, I wish people didn't have large Thanksgiving dinners, and that includes Congressman-elect Boebert, but it's really about the individual choices that people make," Polis said.

Polis said Tuesday that the previously announced stimulus payments of $375 will be going out this week for those who are eligible.

RELATED: Many unemployed Coloradoans will get a $375 stimulus payment under new executive order

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