Lifestyle Health Fauci Says 'Death Toll Would Be Enormous and Totally Unacceptable' If U.S. Tried for Herd Immunity "If everyone contracted it, even with the relatively high percentage of people without symptoms ... a lot of people are going to die," said the health expert By Benjamin VanHoose Published on August 14, 2020 09:01 AM Share Tweet Pin Email Workers move bodies of COVID-19 victims. Photo: ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty An attempt to possibly reach herd immunity through community spread amid the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic could lead to an "enormous" death toll, according to a top health expert. In a new Instagram conversation with Matthew McConaughey on Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned how allowing society to freely spread the coronavirus with the not-yet-proven goal of achieving a herd immunity could result in a deadlier public health crisis. "If everyone contracted it, even with the relatively high percentage of people without symptoms ... a lot of people are going to die," Fauci said, according to CNN. "You look at the United States of America with our epidemic of obesity as it were. With the number of people with hypertension. With the number of people with diabetes." "If everyone got infected, the death toll would be enormous and totally unacceptable," he explained. According to the Mayo Clinic, herd immunity can be achieved through two routes: developing a vaccine (which the experts say is "ideal"), or by allowing natural infections and hoping the majority of a community recovers and develops antibodies. "However, there are some major problems with relying on community infection to create herd immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19. First, it isn't yet clear if infection with the COVID-19 virus makes a person immune to future infection," explains the Mayo Clinic. Vaping Linked to Increased Risk of Coronavirus in Teens and Young Adults, Study Finds 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 Last month, 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 at the time. “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." RELATED VIDEO: Man Says His Final Goodbyes to Wife of Almost 30 Years Shortly Before She Dies of Coronavirus Coronavirus Death Toll in New York City Is Comparable to 1918 Flu Pandemic, Researchers Find In another press conference around the same time, 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. “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.” 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.