SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal health expert at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., spoke to the Sacramento Press Club Wednesday afternoon, emphasizing that tackling the virus is not just an individual effort, but a social responsibility among Americans.
As California reports a significant rise in COVID-19 cases, Fauci asked residents to reflect before trying to resume into normal life.
"You're part of a dynamic pandemic process, so you getting infected, even if you don't realize it, is propagating the continuance of the outbreak," Fauci said.
He said the state doesn't necessarily need to go back into a complete lockdown.
"You need to pause and say, wait a minute, we're starting to open and things aren't going right. What do we need to do to correct that," he said.
California's governor issued a state mandate Thursday requiring all residents to wear a face mask when out in public, something that's received pushback from some politicizing the governor's order.
Fauci emphasized the importance of following the mask requirement.
"Everybody should wear a mask when out public," Fauci said during Wednesday's conversation.
Fauci says wearing a mask is society's responsibility to not just protect an individual, but the whole population.
"It should not be a political issue," Fauci said. "It is purely a public health issue."
The federal health expert reiterated masks protect not only yourself, but the vulnerable.
When a young person get infected, they could infect someone else, who could then infect a vulnerable person, Fauci said.
During the conversation with the Sacramento Press Club, Fauci also praised Gov. Gavin Newsom's handling of the pandemic, saying he has been "ahead of the curve."
"He's got a really good sense of what to do," Fauci said.
Though communities have begun to open up, Fauci encouraged cities and states to begin preparing for a possible surge before it happens.
Dr. Fauci said these next few weeks are crucial.
"I think California is starting to see little bits of surges at the community level as you're opening up," he said. "We've got to get the population to realize we're all in this together."
Showing some optimism, Fauci said the pandemic will eventually come to an end, but not without effort from communities and lawmakers.
"This will end, but it will end because we are doing things to make it end," Fauci said. "It won't end spontaneously."
Despite the toll on the economy and jobs in the U.S., the restrictive things Americans are doing now, will help the country return to normalcy, Fauci said.
In Santa Clara County, health officials are pivoting to a harm reduction strategy as the county returned to the state's watch list.
"We all are collectively grieving for the life that we don't have any more and desperately want to get back to it," said Santa Clara County's top health official Dr. Sara Cody during the event with the press club on Wednesday.
Dr. Cody says data and science will continue to guide her decision-making when it comes to reopening sectors of society.
"It's challenging because as people open up around us, it has an impact on the case and hospitalization trends in our county," she said.
Simple steps like wearing a mask, washing your hands and maintaining social distance might sound like a hassle to some.
But medical experts say they'll continue to be critical to California's success.
"That's going to protect our hospitals, our skilled nursing facilities, vulnerable communities and everyone across the board," Cody said.
Politics aside, the precautions are an opportunity to make a difference in the fight against this deadly virus moving forward.
"Californians have risen to the occasion on social issues so well in the past. You've been the leaders in the country on those things," Fauci said. "This is an issue that really has social responsibility associated with it."