Even as movie theaters, gyms and salons are opening and some states are allowing limited indoor dining, daily life in the U.S. won't get back to normal until late 2021 when a vaccine for COVID-19 could be widely distributed, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Friday.
In an interview on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports," Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he remains confident there will be a vaccine available by the end of this year or early 2021.
"But by the time you mobilize the distribution of the vaccine and get a majority or more of the population vaccinated and protected, that’s likely not going to happen until the end of 2021," he said. "If you’re talking about getting back to a degree of normality prior to COVID, it’s going to be well into 2021, towards the end of 2021."
As the U.S. is plateauing at a high level of around 40,000 new cases and 1,000 deaths a day, Fauci also voiced concerns about states starting to resume certain indoor activities like dining.
"Being indoors absolutely increases the risk" of transmission, Fauci said. “I am concerned when I see things starting indoors, and that becomes more compelling when you move into fall and winter season.”
This week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said restaurants will reopen on Sept. 30, at 25 percent capacity and allow 50 percent capacity in November. Miami-Dade restaurants were allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity at the end of August.
A report published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that adults who tested positive for COVID-19 were twice as likely to report having eaten at a restaurant in the past two weeks.
Fauci stressed that the safest way to resume indoor activities is to bring down community transmission to the lowest possible level.
He also noted that being outdoors doesn't offer blanket protection, either.
"Just because you're outdoors does not that mean you're protected, particularly if you're in a crowd and you're not wearing masks," he said, referring to political rallies.
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Fauci didn't offer more details about the University of Oxford vaccine trial, which was paused by ther drug maker AstraZeneca this week after a participant developed a spinal issue, but did say the safety board was investigating.