As some Americans are getting the first doses of a coronavirus vaccine today, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the public won't be able to "throw the masks away" until the late fall or early winter of 2021.
"Is 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 during a Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual health event Monday.
"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," he added.
Fauci also said that this is "the worst public health catastrophe in 102 years, since the 1918 flu pandemic," and he said he hopes that Americans learn from all their actions and inactions during 2020 to not repeat the same mistakes in the future.
"It's eerie that there were things that went on back in 1918 that are so strikingly similar then that we see now, including the denial some states and cities that there really was a problem; the reluctance to wear masks on some parts of the country; the reluctance to shut down things — some cities shutdown, some didn't — and it was clear that those that shut down did better both from a health standpoint and an economic standpoint,” he said.
“That was 102 years ago, and it's sort of almost repeating itself now in 2020, so I hope we don't have that kind of forgetfulness after this," Fauci added.