Americans Could Still Be Wearing Masks In 2022, Fauci Says

Topline

While a quickening vaccine rollout has some U.S. officials predicting a return to normalcy by the end of this year, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said it’s “possible” the Covid-19 precaution of mask usage will linger into 2022. 

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci is seen … [+] before US President Joe Biden address about the Covid-19 response ahead of signing executive orders in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 21, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

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Key Facts

Fauci said Sunday he agrees with President Biden’s prediction that the U.S. will be “approaching normalcy” by the fall or winter of this year, but warned during an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” that it may take longer for the country to “be precisely the way it was in November of 2019.”

While he evaded exact projections, Fauci said widespread mask usage could still be prevalent in 2022 depending on the “dynamics of the virus that’s in the community.” 

Fauci said he’d want to see “basically no threat” from the virus before he could say it’s safe to go mask-less, pointing to more contagious variants like the U.K. and South African strains as potential complicating factors. 

“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 we’ll be able to say for the most part we don’t necessarily have to wear masks,” said Fauci.

Crucial Quote 

Fauci highlighted that even if precautions like mask usage do extend into 2022, life will be “much, much better than what we’re doing right now.” 

Key Background 

Hopes for a return to relative normalcy in the U.S. have been bolstered by a relatively successful vaccine rollout. The U.S. has carried out more vaccinations than any other country in the world, and is inoculating three-times quicker than the European Union and almost five-times quicker than Canada (adjusted for population). According to The Washington Post’s vaccine tracker, the U.S. has doled out at least one dose of the vaccine to 35.1% of the prioritized population and 12.9% of the total population. The winter storm that’s pummeled Texas and other Southern states over the past week has caused “a temporary set back,” according to Fauci, and has delayed around 6 million vaccines from getting out, but both Fauci and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Sunday morning that the country should be back on track within the next few days. 

Further Reading 

“Pfizer’s Covid Vaccine Over 95% Effective In Israel, New Study Reportedly Shows” (Forbes)

“America’s vaccine rollout has been among the best in the world” (Axios)

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