Dr. Anthony Fauci said there's no way of knowing when Americans will be able to stop wearing masks.
While speaking to CNN's Dana Bash on State of the Union, the nation's top expert immunologist, 80, warned it is "possible" that Americans will be wearing masks in 2022.
"I think we're going to have a significant degree of normality, beyond the terrible burden all of us have been through in the last year, that as we get into the fall and winter… we will be approaching a degree of normality," said Fauci, who is the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden.
However, Fauci noted that it may not be exactly like it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.
"When it goes way down and the overwhelming majority of the people in the population are vaccinated, then I would feel comfortable in saying, you know, 'We need to pull back on the masks,' " he told Bash.
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On Sunday morning, The New York Times reported that the U.S. is likely to reach 500,000 total deaths due to COVID-19 in the coming days.
Fauci also addressed the rising death toll during his State of the Union appearance, calling it a "really horrible" reality.
"It's nothing like we've ever been through in the last 102 years since the 1918 influenza pandemic," he said on CNN, according to Politico. "People decades from now are going to be talking about this as a terribly historic milestone in the history of this country."
Fauci added, "It really is a terrible situation that we've been through and that we're still going through, and that's the reason why we keep insisting to continue with the public health measures because we don't want this to get much worse than it already is."
As of Sunday morning, over 43.6 million Americans have received at least one dose of either Pfizer or Moderna's vaccine, while about 18.8 million have received both scheduled doses, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
"By the time we get to April, that will be what I would call open season," Fauci said of the vaccine during an interview with Savannah Guthrie on the Today show earlier this month. "Virtually everybody and anybody, in any category, could start to get vaccinated."
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Fauci also clarified that "it would likely take several more months, just logistically, to get the vaccine into people's arms," adding, "Hopefully, as we get into the middle and end of the summer, we can have accomplished the goal of what we're talking about — namely, the overwhelming majority of people in this country having gotten vaccinated."
In his previous conversation with Guthrie, Fauci said the vaccines currently in circulation in the U.S. — those from Pfizer and Moderna — "seem to do well against [the] U.K. variant" of the virus that is spreading throughout the country.
In January, Johnson & Johnson also announced "promising" results from their vaccine trials, sharing that their vaccine is 66 percent effective overall in preventing moderate to severe COVID 28 days after vaccination. Additionally, it is 85 percent effective overall against severe COVID illness.
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