Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told the Center for Strategic and International Studies that despite COVID-19 vaccines starting to be distributed and administered, masks and social distancing will still need to be utilized until late next year.
"How do these pieces come together? Let’s say we hit June and we have a 75 or 80 percent coverage of the American population with this new vaccine, but still, some uncertainty hanging over it. What does the reopening look like? Do people — people may be tempted to get rid of their masks and let their guard down, or they may be reminded they have to and for what period. And how does this reopening happen in terms of vacations, travel, all of the parts of life that we want to regain?" J. Stephen Morrison asked.
"Well, first thing, it’s not going to be like turning a light switch on and off. It's not going to be overnight. It's going to be gradual. And I think we will know when we see the level of infection in the country at a dramatically lower level than it is right now that we can start gradually tiptoeing towards normality," Fauci said.
"I don't believe we’re going to be able to throw the masks away and forget about physical separation in congregate settings for a while, probably likely until we get into the late fall and early next winter. But I think we can do it. The numbers will guide us, Steve," he continued, adding that, "We’re having 200,000 to 300,000 new infections per day as you and I are speaking right now. If we get that down to less than 10,000 a day, to 4,000, 3,000, then we’ll be in a very good place because as you know, with the dynamics of the outbreak, the lower number of infections is, the less the virus has a chance to spread, particularly if you have people who now are protected with a vaccine."
Monday saw the Pfizer vaccine being given to frontline healthcare workers in states like New York and California, with more doses being delivered across the country.