Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser for COVID-19, said Sunday that Americans may still be wearing masks outside their homes a year from now, even as he predicted the country would return to “a significant degree of normality” by fall.
“I want it to keep going down to a baseline that’s so low there is virtually no threat,” Fauci said on the CNN program “State of the Union,” referring to the number of cases nationally that would make him comfortable enough to stop recommending universal masking. “If you combine getting most of the people in the country vaccinated with getting the level of virus in the community very, very low, then I believe you’re going to be able to say, for the most part, we don’t necessarily have to wear masks.”
Fauci appeared on a series of TV news programs Sunday morning, where he was quizzed on the dangers of variants of the coronavirus, the schedule of the nation’s vaccine rollout and when vaccination would allow more students to return to schools.
On this last question, Fauci said on “Fox News Sunday” that he hoped high school students, far fewer of whom have gone back to classrooms compared with younger children, would be eligible for vaccination in the fall.
“That’s why we are pushing on those studies, to get them vaccinated,” he said of teenagers, who are the subject of clinical trials by Pfizer and Moderna. “That will likely occur in the fall; I can’t say it’s going to be on Day 1 of when school starts in the fall term.”
Vaccinations for younger children, however, “likely will not be before the beginning of the first quarter of 2022,” Fauci said.
On the hotly debated question of whether people should wait longer than the recommended three or four weeks to get a booster vaccine, or even skip the second dose, Fauci said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that it was prudent for people to stick to the prescribed schedule.
“There are enough unknowns in that, particularly the durability of the protection,” he said.
He added that while new data suggesting people who have had COVID could get enough protection from one dose was “really quite impressive,” it might be complicated to document who has had the virus.
He also addressed the subject of the mutated variant of the coronavirus identified in South Africa. In clinical trials involving the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in that country, patients who were inoculated were not protected from mild or moderate illness caused by the variant, known as B. 1.351. Fauci said on “Fox News Sunday” that while it is rare in the United States, “if it becomes more dominant, we may need a version of the vaccine that’s effective specifically against” it.
With the United States expected to surpass 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the coming days, Fauci told Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” that “we haven’t seen anything even close to this for well over 100 years,” since the 1918 influenza pandemic, adding, “People will be talking about this decades and decades and decades from now.”