"America has been the worst hit country in the world with 8.1 million cases and over 218,000 deaths," Dr. Fauci said.

MORGANTOWN, WV (KDKA) – As COVID-19 cases continue to rise to record levels, medical professionals at West Virginia University heard directly from the nation’s leading expert in infectious diseases on Thursday.

“He has served six presidents. He is I would say without a doubt the world’s leader in infectious disease,” said Sally Hodder with the WVU Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

As the keynote speaker for the Institute’s virtual event, Dr. Anthony Fauci hit the high points on where the country stands with COVID-19.

“America has been the worst hit country in the world with 8.1 million cases and over 218,000 deaths,” Dr. Fauci said.

In Dr. Fauci’s presentation, he said over the last six months, researchers have determined over 40 percent of people who contract the virus are asymptomatic. His advice is still the same: mask up and social distance.

“I feel cautiously optimistic we will have a safe vaccine even though you can never be certain when it comes to vaccinology,” Dr. Fauci said.

Until that happens, there is concern over rising cases.

“Just in the last week, we’ve seen the highest weekly average of positive cases and the two highest daily numbers of cases anytime since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Dr. Clay March, who’s West Virginia’s COVID-19 Czar.

Dr. Marsh said the community needs to step up to help stop the spread and protect the people not just next door, but across the state of West Virginia.

“If you have over 90 percent of the people wearing face masks effectively and correctly and physically distancing, the impact on our reproductive value of the rate of spread is as good, if not better, than a vaccine and immediately at our disposal,” Marsh said.

Dr. Fauci also encouraged anyone want to help to research and consider joining any of the vaccine trials happening across the country.