WASHINGTON - Coronavirus restrictions will need to remain in place in some form even after a vaccine becomes available, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci told the "Fox News Rundown" podcast Thursday.
Fauci, the most prominent member of the White House coronavirus task force, raised eyebrows Wednesday when he said, "I think it will be easily by the end of 2021 and perhaps into the next year before we start having some semblance of normality" during a webinar with the University of Melbourne in Australia.
Medical syringe is seen with 'covid-19' sign displayed on a screen in the background in this illustration photo taken in Poland on October 12, 2020. (Photo illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
On Thursday, Fauci told host Jessica Rosenthal that he was referring to "what we think of as normal, namely prior to December of 2019."
Fauci explained that health officials "likely will get knowledge of whether or not we have safe and effective vaccines by the end of this calendar year, likely some time in December.
"If we begin distributing doses of vaccine at the very beginning of 2021 ... I think when you start seeing people getting vaccinated in January, February, March, April, May, and it's clear that it's safe and that it is impacting the course of the pandemic in the United States, more and more people will want to get vaccinated. That's going to take several months. And if it takes several months, you're going to get into the third and maybe the fourth quarter of 2021."
However, Fauci warned, that timeline depends on "how effective the vaccine is, compounded by what percentage of the population actually wants to get vaccinated."
For that reason, he said, "as that process evolves, you cannot abandon public health measures because the vaccine is not going to be perfect and not everybody is going to take it."
As more people take the vaccine, Fauci said, Americans will "gradually be able to do things that we're not doing now widely. For example, allowing occupancy of theaters, maybe not full capacity, but close to full capacity; having spectators be in the stadium or in the field during athletic events; having restaurants be close to full capacity.
"That doesn't mean people should not be wearing masks and [that] people should not be avoiding congregate settings where there are big crowds," he added. "But there will be a gradual lifting of the public health restrictions. And I think that's going to take a full year."
The exception, Fauci told Rosenthal, is schools.
"We should, right now, to the best of our capability ... [be] trying to get children back to school," he said. "I think children getting back to school will be much, much sooner than getting people into theaters at full capacity. No doubt about that."