White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has projected that the United States will be “approaching a degree of normality” by the end of this year, but that pandemic-weary Americans may still be wearing face masks and coverings well into 2022.
“You know, I think it is possible that that’s the case (that Americans will be wearing masks in 2022) and, again, it really depends on what you mean by normality,” President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor on the coronavirus said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
Fauci added that he believes that by the end of 2021, “we’re going to have a significant degree of normality beyond the terrible burden that all of us have been through over the last year. As we get into the fall and the winter, by the end of the year, I agree with (Biden) completely that we will be approaching a degree of normality.”
The comments from the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases come as the U.S. death toll from the yearlong coronavirus pandemic recently surpassed five hundred thousand, representing more than six average NFL stadiums worth of victims. More than a fifth of all deaths worldwide have occurred in the United States, which has less than 5 percent of the global population, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Like Fauci, health experts and top government officials have asserted that necessary coronavirus precautions must remain in place to further slow the spread of the virus.
“While the progress we’re making toward recovery is exciting, it’s critical that we don’t ease up on the precautions that we know have worked thus far,” Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, told the National Interest.
“Masks and physical distancing are still our best weapons for limiting spread and, now that we have a vaccine, will make those precautions even more effective and will drive new cases way down if we stay the course.”
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shared similar sentiments Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“We are still at about a hundred thousand cases a day. We are still at around fifteen hundred to thirty-five hundred deaths per day. The cases are more two and a half fold times what we saw over the summer,” she said.
“It’s encouraging to see these trends coming down, but they’re coming down from an extraordinarily high place.”
Other experts have taken on a more wait-and-see approach.
“It is probably too early to speculate on 2022, but it’s certainly probable that masks will still have some type of role,” Dr. Jason Keonin, of Northwest Iowa Surgeons PC, told the National Interest.
The CDC also has recently confirmed that double-masking, or the wearing of two face masks at once, can provide extremely high levels of protection against spreading or contracting the virus.
In addition, the agency’s study discovered that a tighter fit can markedly improve the overall effectiveness of masks. One particular way to improve the fit of medical masks is to make sure they are “knotted and tucked”—which can be achieved “by bringing together the corners and ear loops on each side, knotting the ear loops together where they attach to the mask, and then tucking in and flattening the resulting extra mask material to minimize the side gaps,” the CDC noted.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.