One of the Trump administration's top coronavirus advisers told "The Daily Briefing" Friday that the number of pandemic deaths in the U.S. should start to decrease soon, though he warned Americans will still need to take precautions like wearing masks.
"What you're seeing right now is that the positivity rate is down, the numbers of cases are starting to go down, the hospitalizations are going down," Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir told host Dana Perino.
"But the unfortunate, sad fact, is the mortality, the deaths, will lag a couple of weeks," he added. "So, I'm not making any promises here, but if everything follows, we should start seeing the numbers of deaths go down in a couple of weeks.
"And then it's up to us," Giroir went on. "If we do the things we know so well now that work -- we have evidence on top of evidence that simple mask wearing, if everybody does it, can completely reverse this -- then we're not going to see [any new increases]. But if we don't do that, until we get a vaccine, 90 percent of the population is still at risk to get this virus and that could be catastrophic if we don't do those kinds of actions we're asking."
COVID-19 deaths do not move in perfect lockstep with the infection curve, for the simple reason that it can take weeks to get sick and die from the virus. The virus has claimed more than 150,000 lives in the U.S. and killed more than 500,000 others around the globe.
Giroir's comments came on the same day that he and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci testified before a House subcommittee about the pandemic.
Like Giroir, Fauci has stressed the need to follow strict guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus, recommending universal mask wearing, the closure of bars and the avoidance of crowds.
"I think if we do that for a couple of weeks in a row ... I think we're going to see a turnaround because we know that works," Fauci told the "PBS NewsHour" earlier this month.
Anchor Judy Woodruff pushed back, arguing that Americans have heard that message but it's "not working."
Fauci responded by claiming that the efforts have been "a bit spotty."
"It hasn't been uniform," he added, "where everybody in that region says, 'Wait a minute, we're having a serious problem. We got to reboot this.'"
The Associated Press contributed to this report.