Dr. Fauci Says This One Thing Could Stop Us From Getting Back to Normal

The nation's top infectious disease expert also believes that one thing will have to happen first.

As pandemic fatigue begins to settle in even further, the first question on many peoples' minds is when society will be able to ease back on health precautions and return to the "normal life" we knew almost a year ago. Now, as COVID vaccination efforts begin to pick up speed across the U.S. and case numbers have begun to drop nationwide, experts are getting a better idea of that timeline. As of now, according to Anthony Fauci, MD, the chief COVID adviser to the White House, we'll likely be able to "get back to normal" within just a few months—so long as a few major issues are addressed first. Read on to see what he thinks will have to happen before we can put the pandemic behind us. And for more advice on staying safe for now, know that If Your Mask Doesn't Have These 4 Things, Doctors Say You Need to Get a New One.

Fauci predicts a return to normal by summer or early fall.

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During an on-air interview with CNN's Don Lemon on Feb. 2, Fauci predicted that the end phases of the pandemic would likely begin before the end of the year. "I think if we do it right—if we really efficiently and effectively get people vaccinated—we can do that by the end of the summer [or] the beginning of the fall," he said.

But Fauci emphasized that there were still plenty of major hurdles in the way before "normal" could become a reality. "It's going to be a cohort effect, and what I mean by [that] is you that can't look at yourself in a vacuum," he explained. "Normal is a societal thing, so what we mean if we want our society to get back to normal, you have to get 70 to 85 percent of the population vaccinated. If you can get people protected and get an umbrella of what we call 'herd immunity,' the level of infection is going to go very, very low down in the community, and at that point, the entire community can get back to normal." And for more from the White House adviser on what you won't be able to do, find out why Dr. Fauci Just Said We'll Never Be Able to Do This Again.

But, he warns, we need to "address the variants" first.

Man wearing a face mask during the coronavirus pandemic
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Fauci also pointed out that beyond the gargantuan task of vaccinating the vast majority of Americans, there's a new foe that could present a new set of challenges to public health initiatives. "There is an absolute 'but' in that," he added. "And the 'but' is that we have to address the variants."

Fauci warned that the constantly evolving virus could hamper the efforts to effectively inoculate the public, warning that "if the variants and the mutations come and start becoming dominant, then that's going to obviate some of the effect of the vaccine." And to see how far we are from that, check out How Many Cases of the New COVID Strains Are in Your State.

Another surge in cases could be looming.

Two doctors wearing protective gear intubate a COVID patient in the ICU.
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Fauci isn't alone in his concern over the recent spread of highly contagious mutated strains of the novel coronavirus. In fact, some recently discovered variants have experts worried that yet another wave of COVID cases will come crashing through the public within the next few months.

"The fact is that the surge that is likely to occur with this new variant from England is going to happen in the next six to 14 weeks," Michael Osterholm, MD, a White House COVID adviser, told Meet the Press on Jan. 31. "And, if we see that happen, which my 45 years in the trenches tell me we will, we are going to see something like we have not seen yet in this country." And for more COVID news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Vaccines can help stop new strains from developing.

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Fortunately, there is still a solution to the looming issue of new highly contagious strains. "The only way a virus mutates [is] if it can replicate," Fauci told Lemon. "So if you vaccinate people and double down on public health measures and keep the level of viral dynamics low, we will not have an easy evolution into mutations. That's something that people really need to understand."

"The way you stop those mutations: Get vaccinated and abide by the public health measures," Fauci emphasized. And for more on the main efforts you should follow, find out why These 3 Things Could Prevent Almost All COVID Cases, Study Finds.

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Zachary Mack
Zachary covers beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He's the owner of Alphabet City Beer Co. in New York City and is a Certified Cicerone. Read more
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