Fauci: Mask-wearing and social-distancing likely needed until 'early next winter'

Fauci calls Operation Warp Speed 'quite a success story'

Published: December 14, 2020 5:54pm

Updated: December 15, 2020 10:25am

As the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine gets underway, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the American public should anticipate likely needing to wear masks and socially distancing through next winter.

Fauci was asked Monday when he thinks society will be able to get back to pre-coronavirus normality.

"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," Fauci said during a discussion hosted by the Center for Strategy and International Studies. "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, but I think we can do it. The numbers will guide us."

Fauci also said that having a vaccine distributed before the end of the year was "unimaginable" at the beginning of the pandemic. He referred to Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership implemented under the Trump administration, as a "success story," given that a "group of vaccines" for COVID-19 have been produced.

"I think Operation Warp Speed, putting hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, into facilitating the technical aspects of the trial, the clinical trial, the pre-purchasing of hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine is unprecedented," he said. "So it's really quite a success story, I must say."

Fauci was asked what he thinks the U.S. should do internationally with any surplus of the coronavirus vaccine.

"I don't know what we're going do. That's not in my control. You know how I feel about the responsibility of the United States to the developing world, particularly when there are issues, which are implementable in the developed world, but not so easy in the developing world," he said. 

Fauci cited the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) under former President George W. Bush as a "classic example" of the U.S. taking a global approach to a health issue. He compared PEPFAR to the COVID-19 pandemic but declined to say how he thinks the U.S. should handle distribution of the coronavirus vaccine abroad.

"I do feel that we in the developing world, not only the United States, in the developed world that is, but other countries, have a responsibility to make sure that ultimately there's equitable distribution of highly effective and safe vaccines against COVID-19 because this is a global problem," he said. "It's not a national problem. It's a global problem. So I believe we do have that responsibility, whether we act on that responsibility, Steve, I don't know, I don't have the power or the control to do that."

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