September 14, 2020 -- Dr. Anthony Fauci says fall and winter could be very difficult for the United States as the flu season arrives on top of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“We need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter because it’s not going to be easy,” Fauci said Thursday during an online panel discussion with doctors from Harvard Medical School.

The number of daily cases – about 36,000 -- is lower than August but still too high, Fauci said.

“What I would like to see is keeping the lid on it, keeping the baseline down, until we get a vaccine,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. “I think that’s the thing that turns it around.”

He repeated his belief that a vaccine will be available in late 2020 or early 2021.

Fauci and other health officials have said the combination of flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic creates a double-barreled health problem for the United States.

“As we get into the fall and do more indoor things, we’re likely to see upticks in COVID-19,” he said.

But health measures designed to control the spread of the coronavirus, such as mask wearing and social distancing, could also help control influenza, Fauci said.

He noted that Australia is reporting its lightest influenza season in recent memory, which he attributed to flu shots and health measures to control the coronavirus.

Fauci said he’s very worried about a post-Labor Day spike in coronavirus cases, similar to the one that followed Memorial Day.

He also said that the movement of hotspots across the United States is predictable, because “blips” always follow a state’s decision to lift restrictions to open the economy.

“It’s really quite frankly depressing because we know what’s ahead when we do that,” he said.

Fauci stressed how much scientists don’t know about COVID-19 and compared the current pandemic to the early days of HIV. That epidemic started with a small number of gay men and spread over the decades to kill millions of people across the globe.

“We've been through this before,” he said. “Don't ever, ever underestimate the potential of the pandemic. And don't try and look at the rosy side of things."