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Dr. Fauci Says When We Can Stop Wearing Masks

The majority of Americans have to do this first.
Doctor Anthony Fauci wearing face mask.

Ready to ditch your face mask? Get ready to wait a while. That will require the U.S. to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert and chief medical adviser to President Biden. That means "you need to get about 70 to 85% of the population vaccinated," said Fauci during a virtual event at the University of Miami on Thursday. Fauci defined herd immunity as "when the level of virus is so low in the community, that it clearly is no longer a threat … and there are very few infections." Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

COVID cases dropping, but still high

Only then might you be able to drop your mask safely."Then I think you could see an appropriate pulling-back on the stringency of some of the public health measures, namely mask-wearing," he said. "Likely, restaurants will be able to go back to indoor dining. You likely will be able to go back to a theater for a play or for a movie. I think that that will happen, but you have to get the virus way below the level it is right now."

According to the New York Times, on Feb. 11 the seven-day moving average of new COVID-19 cases was 105,515, down 36% from two weeks before. That's significantly below the level seen in early January, when more than 300,000 daily cases were recorded. But it's still well above the previous U.S. peak of about 70,000 cases a day last July. And it's double what Fauci and other health experts consider a reasonable baseline.

There is a long way to go on the vaccination front as well. According to the CDC, as of Feb. 11, about 11.1 million Americans had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19—just over 3 percent of the U.S. population. 

But Fauci relayed some promising news: The current COVID vaccines, once given, seem to be effective for a while. "We know that it's at least six months. It may be much, much longer," he said. "Clearly it's at least six to eight months. But you don't know what it is until you follow people out for a couple of years."

After a shaky start marked by shortages, the national vaccination campaign has picked up speed recently, although many areas are still reporting an insufficient supply of vaccine. On Thursday, the Biden Administration said it had purchased enough vaccines to inoculate every American by late summer. 

Fauci has said that "open season" for vaccines—when any American who wants one can receive one, regardless of age or medical condition—should arrive around April.  

RELATED: If You Feel This, You May Have Already Had COVID, Says Dr. Fauci

How to survive this pandemic

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a 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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