Fauci reacts as the U.S. surpasses 500,000 deaths from COVID-19

The United States hit a grim milestone on Sunday as it reached half a million deaths due to COVID-19.

Per a tally from NBC News, the nation’s death toll was 500,002 people, which Dr. Anthony Fauci said was both “really horrible” and “historic.”

"It's nothing like we've ever been through in the last 102 years since the 1918 influenza pandemic," Fauci told host Dana Bash on CNN's "State of the Union."

"People decades from now are going to be talking about this as a terribly historic milestone in the history of this country,” he added.

California has the most deaths in the U.S. at 49,120, according to John Hopkins. New York has the second-most deaths at 46,703.

The death toll has now surpassed that of any American war except the Civil War, Politico noted.

"It really is a terrible situation that we've been through and that we're still going through, and that's the reason why we keep insisting to continue with the public health measures, because we don't want this to get much worse than it already is," the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases explained.

Still, Fauci remained optimistic adding that cases are on the decline.

"The slope that's coming down is really terrific," he told host Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press." "It's very steep, and it's coming down very, very quickly."

As infections plummet, Fauci, who also serves as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, warned Americans against falling into a sense of complacency.

"We are still at a level that's very high. What I don't want to see is when you look at that slope, to come down and to say, 'Wow, we're out of the woods now. We're in good shape.' We're not, because the baseline of daily infections is still very, very high,” he admitted.

Fauci upheld Biden’s statement about securing 600 million vaccine doses by the end of summer. The number could vaccinate roughly 300 million Americans.

Previously, he predicted that by the summer, it would be “open season” on vaccine eligibility in the United States.

"By July, we will have in hand enough vaccine to be able to vaccinate virtually anybody and everybody," he told host Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday."

He added: "it is very likely that before then we are going to start vaccinating people who are outside the priority groups and essentially represent anyone and everyone,” he said.

Earlier this week, Fauci hoped that a return to normality could happen by the end of the year.

He admitted that there are many factors that will determine when Americans may be able to resume pre-pandemic behaviors.

One of those factors are the “more ominous” coronavirus strains. The variants have been deemed more contagious than the initial strain, which could interfere with the otherwise hopeful timeline.

Activities such as safe indoor dining or attending a movie may be possible “somewhere between the fall and the end of the year,” while a return to life as it used to be may be closer to “the end of the year, by Christmas,” he noted.

He reiterated himself when speaking with the LA Times Today, noting that "by the time we start entering 2022, we really will have a degree of normality that will approximate the kind of normality we've been used to."

As for masks? Fauci believes Americans could still be wearing masks in 2022 even if a “degree of normality” returns.

“You know, I think it is possible that that's the case and, again, it really depends on what you mean by normality,” Fauci told CNN’s Dana Bash.

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