Lifestyle Health Expect 'Difficult' Winter with Mix of Coronavirus and Flu, Says CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield emphasized that masks are "the most powerful weapons" in combating COVID-19 By Benjamin VanHoose Published on July 15, 2020 11:20 AM Share Tweet Pin Email One of the nation's top health officials is warning that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) could worsen in coming months. On Tuesday, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spoke at a webinar for Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA, when he said Americans should brace for what will likely be a "difficult" fall and winter season. "I do think the fall and the winter of 2020 and 2021 are going to be probably one of the most difficult times we've experienced in American public health because of ... the co-occurrence of COVID and influenza," said Redfield. “Keeping the health care system from being overstretched, I think, is really going to be important," he added. "And the degree that we're able to do that, I think, will define how well we get through the fall and winter." The statement comes as new areas across the country present themselves as hot spots, recording spikes in coronavirus infections in states like Florida, Texas, California and Louisiana. In another press conference held Monday, Redfield assured that the best tactic to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and reduce its public health severity is by simply wearing a mask in public. New U.N. Report Warns Coronavirus Pandemic Could Cause 132 Million People to Go Hungry CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield. Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories “If all of us would put on a face covering now for the next four weeks, six weeks, we could drive this epidemic to the ground,” he said. “... We are not defenseless against this virus. We actually have one of the most powerful weapons you could ask for — the most powerful weapon we have that I know of is wearing face coverings.” Redfield added: “The most important thing that I could ask the American public to do is to fully embrace face coverings, to fully embrace careful hand hygiene, and to fully embrace social distancing.” RELATED VIDEO: Uplifting Each Other amid the Ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic New York City Reports Day with Zero COVID-19 Deaths for First Time Since Pandemic Hit U.S. Though the CDC first recommended that Americans start wearing face masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on April 3, the Trump administration has refrained from requiring all Americans to wear masks, instead leaving the decision up to individual states. While the majority of Americans say they are wearing masks in public, others have refused, falsely claiming that it goes against their rights or is dangerous to their health. In the months since the CDC’s recommendation, several studies have confirmed that masks are effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19. As of Wednesday morning, more than 3,445,500 Americans have tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 136,356 have died, according to data compiled by The New York Times. As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.