As the country faces an alarming rise in coronavirus cases, federal officials are sharing bleak predictions for the upcoming winter months.

Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, detailed the unsettling projections while speaking at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event on Wednesday. The CDC director warned that the country's COVID-19 death toll could reach up to 450,000 by February. His comments came just a day after the US reported its second-highest single-day tally of coronavirus deaths (2,597), bring the country's total to around 275,000.

"The reality is, December and January and February are going to be rough times," Redfield said, as reported by the New York Times. "I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation ... We’re in that range potentially now, starting to see 1,500 to 2,000 to 2,500 deaths a day from this virus. The mortality concerns are real, and I do think, unfortunately, before we see February, we could be close to 450,000 Americans [dead from COVID-19]." 

Redfield also addressed how the rising number of cases has wreaked havoc on hospitals across the country, stating about 90 percent of US health facilities are in the red zone with nearly 100,000 people hospitalized.

The director went on to say that these projections can be improved, however, through wide-scale mitigation strategies like social distancing and mask-wearing. 

"It’s not a fait accompli. We’re not defenseless. The truth is that mitigation works," Redfield said. "But it’s not going to work if half of us do what we need to do. Probably not even if three-quarters do ... When you really want to get everybody on board, you’ve got to have clear, unified, reinforced messaging. The fact that we were still arguing in the summer about whether masks work was a problem. The time for debating whether or not masks work or not is over. We clearly have scientific evidence."

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