CNN's Dana Bash pressed Fauci on whether people would still wear masks as a protective barrier against COVID-19 into 2022, citing President Biden's statement during a town hall last Tuesday where he predicted return to "normality" by Christmas.
The infectious disease expert noted Biden's timeline is possible, however, "If normality means exactly the way things were before [the pandemic], I can't predict that ... As we get into the fall and the winter, by the end of the year, I agree with the president completely that we will be approaching a degree of normality."
His comments followed White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s reporters, only days ago, “We want to be straight with the American public though. We are not in a place where we can predict exactly when everybody will feel normal again.”
"If you see the level [of virus dynamics of virus in the community] coming down really, really very low, I want it to keep going down to a baseline that’s so low there is virtually no threat," Fauci said. "It will never be zero, but a minimal, minimal threat you will be exposed to someone who is infected."
Fauci added that a combination of vaccinating most of the population and reducing the level of virus in communities would lead to a scenario where "for the most part we don't necessarily have to wear masks."
Some international health experts have cast doubt on whether the virus will ever become a non-issue for the public, citing the latest mutations of the virus and the risk of persistent and lingering mild infections found more commonly among younger patients.
White House health officials previously projected an "open season" for vaccines by April, though in an interview on Tuesday, Fauci revised the time frame to "mid-to-late May and early June.”
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According to Johns Hopkins University data, the United States has confirmed 28,077,620 COVID-19 infections and 497,648 deaths attributed to the virus since the outset of the pandemic. In recent weeks, the average number of new cases has been on the decline. "There has been a five-week downward trend in cases," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Feb. 19. "The highest 7-day moving average occurred on January 11, 2021 and was 249,048. The current 7-day average is 77,385 cases, which is a 68.9% decline." As of Sunday morning, NPR's regularly updated vaccine tracker concluded 12.9% of the U.S. population has received at least their first vaccine dose, and 5.4% have received both doses required to be fully effective.