Dr. Anthony Fauci declined to say Sunday when fully vaccinated Americans can shed their face mask indoors.
What is the background?
In May, after a sizable number of Americans became vaccinated against COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that fully vaccinated people could return to "normal life." That was, after all, the promise of receiving the vaccine: The restrictions would end.
However, when COVID cases spiked this summer, which public health officials attributed to the Delta variant, the CDC reversed its guidance. The agency has maintained since July that even fully vaccinated Americans should wear masks indoors where community transmission of COVID-19 is not low.
But considering that public health officials maintain the COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective and breakthrough cases are statistically insignificant, Americans are left wondering: Why is the Biden administration still telling us to wear face masks indoors?
What did Fauci say now?
During an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union," Fauci was asked when indoor mask requirements would be rescinded.
Show host Dana Bash asked, "How long do you think it will be until it's safe for vaccinated people to once again be indoors without a mask?"
Fauci, however, declined to provide a direct answer, instead only talking about abstract guideposts toward "normal."
"It's always tough to predict that," Fauci told Bash.
"I think, if we continue to go down in the cases that we're seeing right now, and more and more people get vaccinated, as the dynamics of the outbreak, namely, the amount of virus circulating in the community, goes down, I hope we will be able to pull back on some of those restrictions to get closer to what we really feel is normal in the community," he continued.
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When pressed for details, Fauci said public health officials need the nearly impossible level of fewer than 10,000 COVID-19 cases per week to consider rolling back restrictions.
"Right now, even though we just said it's going in the right direction, we have less than 100,000 cases a day, it's about 95,000 as the 7-day average — that's still way too high," Fauci said. "We want to get way, way down to that. I mean, I'd like to see it well below 10,000 and even much lower than that."
Fauci's final remark raises the question: What exactly is the goal now? Is it eradication of COVID-19 or is it living with the virus in a manner that reduces risks of hospitalization and death?
Certainly, humanity has chosen the latter option with every other identifiable virus or disease.