Americans could be sitting unmasked in crowded movie theaters again before the end of the year, says Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert.

What You Need To Know

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci says he thinks Americans could be sitting unmasked in crowded movie theaters again by the end of this fall or early winter

  • Talking to the "Politico Dispatch" podcast, Fauci added that the unofficial goal of normalcy will only be reached if Americans continue to get vaccinated and follow public health measures

  • Fauci also said there should be a definitive answer in the next few months on whether the vaccines prevent the spread of the virus and said it’s too early to determine whether vaccines will need to be administered regularly in the future, like flu shots

  • Regarding vaccine passports for travel or businesses, Dr. Fauci said that he doubts the federal government will be the drive behind mandating their use

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the prediction on Monday’s episode of the “Politico Dispatch” podcast

“If we get everything done the way we're talking about ... I think it's going to be late fall, early winter that we'll be able to do that,” Fauci said in response to the movie theater question.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise again, Fauci said steps must be taken on two fronts to achieve that unofficial goal toward normalcy: Americans must get vaccinated, and they must continue to follow public safety guidelines until the virus is under control.

The country’s vaccination efforts are constantly expanding. The U.S. is averaging more than 3 million doses administered a day over the past week and set a record over the weekend with 4 million shots given in a 24-hour period. As of Sunday morning, more than 106 million Americans had received at least one dose, and over 61 million have been fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Every day that goes by, we get the country better and better protected,” Fauci said.

But Fauci, who is also Biden’s chief medical adviser, said it’s a mistake to relax safety measures such as social distancing and mask wearing right now. 

“You can understand why people would want to just say, ‘I have had enough of that,’” Fauci said. “But we can't do that now. We can't declare victory prematurely. We must wait until we get the level of infection remarkably lower than it is right now before we start thinking in terms of pulling back on some of the public health measures.”

The seven-day average for new daily cases as of Saturday was 64,000, up more than 11,000 from March 19. On Thursday, the U.S. recorded nearly 75,000 new cases, the most since Feb. 24. 

Also on the podcast, Fauci said there should be a definitive answer in the next few months on whether the vaccines prevent the spread of the virus. He said there is currently studies being done at dormitories on about 20 college campuses.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last week that "vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don't get sick, and that is not just in the clinical trials but it's also in real world data." But the agency walked back those comments, telling The New York Times: “It’s possible that some people who are fully vaccinated could get Covid-19. The evidence isn’t clear whether they can spread the virus to others. We are continuing to evaluate the evidence.”

Regarding the use of vaccine passports, Dr. Fauci said that the federal government will not be the driving force behind mandating their use.

“I doubt that the federal government will be the main mover of a vaccine passport concept,” Fauci said, adding: “They may be involved in making sure things are done fairly and equitably, but I doubt if the federal government is going to be the leading element of that.”

Dr. Fauci said that schools and businesses could require their businesses to enter, however: “I'm not saying that they should or that they would, but I'm saying you could foresee how an independent entity might say, 'well, we can't be dealing with you unless we know you're vaccinated,' but it's not going to be mandated from the federal government.”

Fauci also said it’s too early to say whether vaccines will need to be administered regularly in the future, like flu shots. 

Pfizer and BioNTech said last week that their vaccine is 91% effective at least six months after the second dose has been administered. 

“But we don't know how much longer because we've only been doing this for less than a year,” Fauci said. “So I would hope it's going to be longer than a year, or maybe two or three. But if it isn't, then we have to leave on the table the possibility that we might have to come back and give people boosters intermittently.


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