Speed Reads

the coronavirus crisis

Dr. Fauci wants people to hold onto their masks until at least next fall

As exciting as it was to see health care workers across the U.S. receive COVID-19 vaccinations Monday, experts want to make clear that the coronavirus pandemic is far from over.

"It's not going to be like turning a light switch on and off," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a virtual event with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It's going to be gradual, and 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 toward normality."

On Monday, more than 201,000 coronavirus cases were recorded in the U.S. and the death toll surpassed 300,000. A record 110,549 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized across the country, too, the Covid Tracking Project said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that health care workers and people in long-term care facilities get the vaccine first, and Fauci said he doesn't believe "we're going to be able to throw the masks away and forget about physical separation in 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."

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told CNN the U.S. should be able to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of December, and Fauci said if the "vaccine rollout works the way I hope it does," an "overwhelming majority" of Americans will be inoculated by late spring. Once there is "that veil of protective immunity," he said, researchers should know "by the end of 2021, as we go into 2022, what the durability is and whether or not we're dealing with something that needs to be reboosted every year."

While it's still too early to let down any guards, Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CNN, seeing people receive the vaccine has been "tremendous" and he is "smiling bigger than I've smiled in a long time, because it has been a hard year for so many people out there, including me personally. Today we really did get a shot of hope."