Michael Osterholm, a renowned infectious disease expert, warned that the next several months will be the 'darkest of the entire pandemic.'
When asked about the White House's controversial push towards herd immunity, Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, admitted he didn't share the administration's optimism.
'We're not telling the full story. We do have vaccines and therapeutics coming down the pike, but when you look at the time period for that, the next six to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the pandemic, he said.
'Vaccines will not become available in any meaningful way until early to [the] third quarter of next year. And even then, about half of the U.S. population at this point is skeptical of even taking the vaccine.'
Although infections have been on the rise, coronavirus deaths currently average about 700 a day - far off their peak in April with nearly 2,000 daily deaths. The fatality rate also has dropped, from 60 deaths per 100,000 people to 37 in May down to 27 per 100,000 in June.
Michael Osterholm (pictured), director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, revealed the next several months will be the 'darkest of the entire pandemic'
Osterholm blamed the skepticism on a 'major problem in messaging.'
He explained that Americans don't have a 'lead' or 'consolidated' voice to guide them through the pandemic at the moment.
'People don't know what to believe, and that's one of our huge challenges going forward [is] that we've got to get a message to the public that reflects the science and reflects reality,' said Osterholm.
He added that the goal of herd immunity was best reached when placing citizens through a vaccination program - not simply allowing them to get the virus - but that would require public support.
'We need somebody to start to articulate, 'What is our long-term plan? How are we going to get there? Why are we asking people to sacrifice distancing? Why are we telling people if you really love your family, you won’t go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas and end up infecting mom or dad or grandpa and grandma."
Osterholm said he believed American citizens did not have a 'lead' or 'consolidated' voice regarding the pandemic. Pictured: President Donald Trump
'We don’t have that storytelling going on right now, and that’s every bit as important as the science itself.'
On Friday, there were 70,000 new coronavirus cases in the country - the highest level since July.
Osterholm said that figure is worrying and perhaps a sign of things to come.
'Friday we had 70,000 cases, matching the largest number we had seen back during the really serious peak in July. That number... we're going to blow right through that. And between now and the holidays we will see numbers much much larger,' Osterholm said.
The expert said that regardless of who wins the White House on Nov. 3, leadership on virus response is needed.
'We need somebody to start to articulate, what is our long-term plan? How are we going to get there? Why are we asking people to sacrifice distancing? Why are we telling people if you really love your family you won't go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas? We don't have that storytelling right now,' Osterholm said.
'This is our covid year. Let's accept it. Think through this and do them the greatest gift of all. And that is distance yourself this year and don't expose them. It's not ideal. We know that. But we're trying to get through it.'
Although the White House emerged as a solid front when it enacted the coronavirus task force in January, the facade slowly waned as Trump ignored health experts' guidelines and dissenting voices entered civil discourse.
Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top infectious disease expert on the task force, publicly bumped heads over various issues.
Trump's more laissez faire approach to eradicating the pandemic clashed with Fauci, who repeatedly called for Americans to adhere to social distancing and emphasized the importance of face masks.
The pair's most recent clash came over herd immunity, which was reportedly proposed to Trump by medical adviser Scott Atlas.
Several health experts have dismissed herd immunity as a viable solution, including Fauci, who called it 'total nonsense,' as well as 'scientifically and ethically problematic.'Twitter removed 'misleading' tweet from Dr. Scott Atlas
By Valerie Edwards for DailyMail.com
Twitter has removed a 'misleading' tweet from White House adviser Dr Scott Atlas who claimed that masks don't work.
In the tweet shared on Saturday, Atlas wrote: 'Masks work? No.'
Atlas, who has been on the coronavirus task force since the pandemic began in the US, then used examples of areas where he said 'cases exploded even with mandates'.
Atlas included the following locations in the tweet: Los Angeles, Miami, Hawaii, Alabama, France, Philippines, United Kingdom, Spain and Israel.
Masks and facial coverings are used to prevent people who have the virus from infecting others.
A Twitter spokesperson told CNN that the tweet was removed because it violated the company's Covid-19 Misleading Information Policy.
Twitter said that Atlas violated the policy that prohibits users from sharing false or misleading content related to the pandemic that could lead to harm.
In recent weeks, several states have shown an increase in COVID-19 infections.
On Friday, the US reported 69,100 new cases in a single day. The number hasn't been that high since July 29 when 71,300 cases were reported in a day.
Atlas's remarks come just a month after NBC News reportedly overheard CDC Director Robert Redfield suggesting in a conversation with a colleague that Atlas is arming Trump with misleading data about masks and other issues.
Scott Atlas, a medical adviser, and Anthony Fauci (right), a top infectious disease expert, have disagreed on the effectiveness of herd immunity
Fauci, in an interview on 60 Minutes, said: 'If you just let things rip and let the infection go - no masks, crowds - that quite frankly is ridiculous.
'What that will do is there will be so many people in the community that you can't shelter, that you can't protect, who are going to get sick and get serious consequences.
'If you talk to anybody who has any experience in epidemiology and infectious diseases they'll tell you it's risky and you'll wind up with many more infections of vulnerable people, which will lead to hospitalizations and deaths.
'I think we've got to look that square in the eye and say it's nonsense.'
Last month, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr Robert Redfield was overheard talking about Atlas in a phone call, saying 'everything he says is false'.
The misleading data, according to Redfield, includes questioning the efficiency of masks, if young people are susceptible to COVID-19 and herd immunity.
In response to Redfield's comments, Atlas said: 'Everything I have said is directly from the data and the science. It echoes what is said by many of the top medical scientists in the world, including those at Stanford, Harvard, and Oxford.'
Atlas falsely claimed that herd immunity could be achieved once 20 to 40 per cent of Americans were infected, although he later called reports of that nature 'lies.
'There's news, there's opinion and then there's overt lies -- and that was one of those overt lies,' Atlas said.
According to Osterholm, the herd immunity claims are nothing more than 'pixie dust.'
'First of all, that 20% number is the most amazing combination of pixie dust and pseudoscience I’ve ever seen,' he said. 'It’s 50% to 70% at minimum.'
Osterholm reiterated his push for a coronavirus vaccination, saying 'this virus is going to keep looking for wood to burn for as long as it can.
'So our goal is to get as many people protected with vaccines.'