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Dr. Fauci Says When You Can Get Your Old Life Back

The answer depends on one huge factor.
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On Monday, the COVID-19 vaccine started being administered in the United States. As we are currently in the worst surge of the pandemic thus far, with the number of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths breaking records daily, people are hoping that the trajectory of the highly infectious virus and its wrath on humanity will change course soon and life can go back to normal. When will that happen? During the Center for Strategic & International Studies Online Event: Year-End Reflections on 2020 with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert offered a detailed answer. Read on to hear the timeline, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

Getting Back to Normal Depends on Us, Says Fauci. So That's "A Big If."

When asked how long it would take before people would be able to operate with some sort of normalcy, including reopening of businesses, traveling, and safely reopening schools, Dr. Fauci explained that the vaccine wouldn't provide an instant fix. 

"Well, first thing, it's not going to be like turning a light switch on and off. It's not going to be overnight," he revealed. "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."

Unfortunately, it might even be a year before protective facial coverings are not needed. "I don't believe we're going to be able to throw the masks away and forget about physical separation and congregate settings for a while, probably likely until we get into the late fall and early next winter," he admitted. "But I think we can do it. The numbers will guide us."

Dr. Fauci pointed out that currently the country is averaging 200,000 to 300,000 new infections per day — 20 to 30 times as many as he would deem close to the "less than 10,000 a day to 4,000, 3,000" needed to be considered "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," he explained. "So I don't think it's going to be subtle we're going to see a dramatic change in the dynamics of the outbreak."

Even then, we won't be able to completely abandon the fundamentals. "We've got to cautiously and prudently begin to pull back a bit on mitigation methods, not just the abandoned them all, but gradually and prudently pulling back," he continued. 

So will people be back in classrooms, eating inside restaurants, traveling on planes, and back in the office next fall? 

"It's a big if and the if, it's up to us," said Fauci. "If we get 75, 80% of the population vaccinated, I think that's eminently doable. 

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When You'll Get Your Vaccine, and How to Stay Safe

"We will start vaccinating the general population, people that don't fall in any of the high priority groups, probably as we get into April," he continued, explaining that if the majority of people were vaccinated by June with a prime and a booster, "by the time you get into the fall, September and October, if we get that proportion of the population vaccinated, we should be able to clearly be feeling very comfortable about schools, as well as getting some of the other functions that we have withheld up to now, theaters, restaurants, things like that."

So get your vaccine and follow the fundamentals, no matter where you live—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene and to protect your life and the lives of others, and don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.