Here's How Long Dr. Fauci Thinks We'll Be Wearing Face Masks

COVID-19 vaccines may be slowly rolling out in the U.S. but, as infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has been continually reminding us, that doesn't mean the pandemic is over. Only a small percentage of the population is vaccinated so far, and new strains of the virus are regularly being discovered. So far, the vaccines we have seem to be working well to protect people from those new strains, but that could change and prolong the pandemic.

That means that, even as things slowly return to normal as more and more people are vaccinated, it will be some time before we return to our pre-pandemic routines. Just how long that will be, though, is something Fauci can't know for sure. "If normality means exactly the way things were before we had this happen to us, I mean, I can't predict that," he said in a recent appearance on CNN.

Fauci continued, saying that he thinks things could slowly start to ease up "into the fall and the winter," but that we will likely need to continue to wear face masks.

We may need to keep wearing masks until next year, even after receiving the COVID vaccine

Again, though, there are too many variables for Fauci to give a definitive answer on this. He does think it's possible, though, that we will need to continue to wear masks into 2022. "It depends... on the level of dynamics of virus that's in the community," he explained.

Fauci continued, "I want to keep going down to a baseline that's so low that there's virtually no threat... that you will be exposed to someone who is infected. So if you combine getting most of the people in the country vaccinated with getting the level of virus in the community very, very low, then I believe you're going to be able to say you know, for the most part, we don't necessarily have to wear masks."

Fauci previously cautioned people to continue wearing masks for the time being, even if they've been vaccinated. "The fact is that after you've been vaccinated, it is conceivable, maybe likely, that you could get infected," he said in another recent interview with CNN. "But because you're vaccinated, you don't get any symptoms. So the good news is you don't get any symptoms, but you could get still infected and have virus in your nasal pharynx, which means that even though you've [been] vaccinated... you could conceivably spread it to someone else. So that's the main reason for wearing the mask, even though you've been vaccinated."