Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease specialist, said Wednesday that he and his family have received death threats because of his high-profile role in battling the coronavirus pandemic.

"Getting death threats for me and my family and harassing my daughters to the point where I have to get security is just, I mean it's amazing," Fauci said during a virtual forum at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "And I wouldn't have imagined in my wildest dreams that people who object to things that are pure public health principles are so set against it, that they actually threaten you."

Fauci has been the target of criticism from conservatives — including President Donald Trump — who feel his public statements during the pandemic have been too pessimistic.

He said Wednesday that he doesn't think a national shutdown is needed to reduce coronavirus cases, but everyone needs to be on board with basic precautions like mask wearing and social distancing.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, answered questions from Harvard Chan faculty and other COVID-19 experts, in a conversation moderated by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent for CNN.

Fauci said the recent uptick in cases nationally has been a result of states gradually reopening and people not wearing masks and social distancing. While not placing blame on them, Fauci said asymptomatic people are "propagating the outbreak, which means you are going to infect someone who'll infect someone, who'll then have a serious consequence."

According to Fauci, "The good news about COVID-19 is that about 40 percent of the population have no symptoms when they get infected, but the bad news is that 40 percent of the population has no symptoms," meaning they don't know they are sick and contagious.

"As long as you have any member of society, any demographic group who is not seriously trying to get to the end game of suppressing this ... it will continue to smolder and smolder and smolder," he warned.

Fauci said national coronovirus case numbers are unacceptably high, but appear to have reached a plateau.