President Joe Biden's top health adviser and coronavirus expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday that even people who receive a coronavirus vaccine won't be able to go out to eat or go to the movies because of "the safety of society."
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke at a White House press briefing via teleconference with the administration's COVID-19 response team during which a reporter asked about the messaging around vaccines.
"There's a lot of conversation about how you need to keep doing the same things even after you get vaccinated — you know, like wearing a mask, not seeing your family, things like that. Do you think that's preventing people from being more enthusiastic about getting vaccines? And may we see that change in the future?" Los Angeles Times reporter Chris Megerian asked.
Fauci answered that there are several things even vaccinated people will not be able to do as long as there is a high rate of coronavirus in the U.S.
This week, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 500,000. According to NBC News, more than 28,206,600 cases have been confirmed in the U.S. Though the average number of daily new cases is in decline, Facui warned that "the burden of virus in society will be very high, which it is right now."
"So there are things, even if you're vaccinated, that you're not going to be able to do in society: for example, indoor dining, theaters, places where people congregate," Fauci said.
"That's because of the safety of society. You, yourself, what you can do when you are together with another person, we are looking at that, and we're going to try and find out very quickly what recommendations could be made about what people can do," he added.
Fauci explained that health experts do not know whether a vaccinated person, though he may be protected from symptoms of disease, could still carry the coronavirus in the back of their nasal cavity at a contagious level. That is why he and other health experts recommend that vaccinated people continue to wear masks, to prevent potential spread of the virus to others.
He said that researchers hope to find that the virus level is "quite low and you're not transmitting it," but clarified "we don't know that now. And for that reason, we want to make sure that people continue to wear masks despite the fact that they're vaccinated."
Fauci has come under fire from critics for sending "mixed messages" about COVID-19, masks, vaccines, and when the country can return to normal.
As Fox News recounted, previously Fauci said that about 70% of Americans need to be vaccinated before the U.S. can reach herd immunity to the virus, before adjusting that number to 80%. He claimed that he revised the number after taking into account public opinion surveys.
"When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75%," Fauci told the New York Times. "Then, when newer surveys said 60% or more would take it, I thought, 'I can nudge this up a bit,' so I went to 80, 85."
"We have to have some humility here," he added. "We really don't know what the real number is. I think the real range is somewhere between 70 to 90%. But, I'm not going to say 90%."
Last August, Fauci said that Americans could begin to return to normal when as few as 50% to 60% of people were vaccinated. But in November, he told CNN that public health measures should remain in place because there's no way of knowing how effective the vaccines are, even if they report an effectiveness of 90%-95% in studies. Then just last Sunday on CNN, Fauci said Americans should continue wearing masks in public into 2022.
In that same interview, Fauci would not tell CNN's Dana Bash if grandparents who have received the vaccine will be able to spend time with their grandchildren.
"You know I'm not going to make a recommendations except to say, these are things that we really do everyday, Dana," he said.
"We look at that, we look at the data, we look at what's evolving about how many people are getting vaccinated and there will be recommendations coming out, I don't want to make a recommendation now on public TV."
This messaging stands in stark contrast to other countries, like Israel, where the people are being told that getting the vaccine means you can return to normal life immediately.
As The Guardian reported:
Israel is preparing itself to be split in half from next week, with the government creating a new privileged tier in society: the vaccinated.
Nearly 50% of the population who have chosen to be inoculated against Covid will be provided with a "green pass" a week after their second shot, as will those with presumed immunity after contracting the disease.
From Sunday, the pass will grant access to gyms, hotels, swimming pools, concerts, and places of worship. Restaurants and bars will be included from early March.
For the rest, including children under 16 who are not eligible for coronavirus shots, many of the activities shut down during the year-long crisis will remain off-limits, although some will be available if they provide a negative coronavirus test.
Meanwhile in the U.S., top health experts tell a different story. Following Fauci's comments, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky added that the benefit of receiving both doses of the coronavirus vaccine is that "there is no longer a need to quarantine after you've been exposed."
She promised that additional guidance regarding what vaccinated people can and cannot do would be forthcoming.