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Dr. Fauci Says When Restrictions Will End

The best-case scenario for a return to life as we knew it before coronavirus.
Dr. Anthony Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, has consistently expressed optimism that an effective coronavirus vaccine will be approved before the end of the year. But that doesn't mean everyday life will snap back to normal. In an online Q&A with Chicago Ideas on Wednesday night, he described what a post-vaccine timeline would look like. Read on to find out, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

A potential roadmap back to normal life

Bottom line, in the best-case scenario: Life, as we're living it right now, will be much the same until about next September.

"It's going to be a gradual return to normal," said Fauci. 

Fauci predicted that a vaccine will begin to be administered at the beginning of 2021. But, he noted, everyone won't be able to be vaccinated at once. A few other considerations will dictate how soon we'll return to normal life: How effective the vaccine is and how many people decide they want to get vaccinated. (Recent polls show that nearly half of Americans are reluctant to get the first version of the vaccine.)

Fauci then outlined the subsequent timeline. "Over a period of several months, probably as we get into the third or fourth quarter of 2021, there will be a gradual relaxing of the public health restrictions," he said. 

However, some public health measures, like mask-wearing, will continue to be necessary. "I think we'll have to be wearing masks for a considerable period of time when we're indoors," said Fauci. "Restaurants, indoor eating will open up much more. As we know that we're protected by a combination of the vaccine and public health measures, sporting events will likely have spectators where they don't have them right now, theaters will be opening— maybe not full capacity, but people will be able to feel comfortable about going to a movie theater or to a concert of some sort. That's going to gradually evolve." 

Fauci concluded: "I think it's going to take at least a year to get back, close enough, to what you and I knew was normal before December of 2019."

RELATED: Dr. Fauci Says You Don't Have to Do This Anymore to Avoid COVID

An approved vaccine will be safe and effective, Fauci says

Fauci conceded that "mixed messages" might be coming from White House about coronavirus prevention and the vaccine development process, but he aimed to reassure Americans that any potential vaccine that emerges will be safe. "The process is solid; it really is," he said. "I want to assure the American public that, when you're looking at a determination as to whether or not interventions—be they vaccines or therapeutics—whether they really are safe and they really are effective, it's not being motivated by political interest."

"What you sometimes hear coming from Washington makes it look like there is influence," he added. "That's not purely scientific, but when you're talking about vaccines and therapeutics, it will be based purely on scientific and public health interests."

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear your face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID

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