New vaccine guidelines coming soon from CDC, Fauci hopes

Dr. Fauci Says We May Still Be Wearing Face Masks in 2022.Dr. Fauci appeared on CNN's 'State of the Union' on Feb. 21.He said that by the end of the year, the U.S. could have "a significant degree of normality beyond what the terrible burden that all of us have been through over the last year." .But Dr. Fauci also pointed out that "a lot of things can happen to modify that.".Because of different factors such as new COVID-19 variants and vaccination efforts, it's "possible" Americans may still need to wear face masks in 2022.There are so many other things that would make a projection that I give you today on this Sunday, wind up not being the case six months from now, Dr. Anthony Fauci, on CNN's 'State of the Union'.Dr. Fauci says that if most Americans get vaccinated and the level of the virus in communities becomes extremely low, then we can consider doing away with masks.When it goes way down, and the overwhelming majority of the people in the population are vaccinated, then I would feel comfortable in saying you know we need to pull back on the masks, we don’t need to have masks, Dr. Anthony Fauci, on CNN's 'State of the Union'

One day after the U.S. officially surpassed 500,000 coronavirus deaths, President Joe Biden’s top health adviser said he believes new vaccination guidelines will come soon from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We want firm recommendations from the CDC, which I believe will be coming soon” for interactions with “fully vaccinated people,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN on Tuesday morning. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said he expects those guidelines to include less-stringent recommendations regarding quarantines for those who have been fully vaccinated.

“I believe you’re going to be hearing more of the recommendations of how you can relax the stringency of some of the things, particularly when you’re dealing with something like your own personal family when people have been vaccinated,” Fauci said.

ExploreAJC's full coronavirus coverage

On Feb. 10, the CDC said those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID can skip quarantine if they are exposed to someone infected with the virus. “Fully vaccinated persons who meet criteria will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19,” the CDC said in updates to its web page. As of now, the CDC is still recommending that vaccinated people follow the same rules as everybody else about wearing a mask, keeping a 6-foot distance and avoiding crowds — even after they’ve gotten their second vaccine dose.

On Monday, the U.S. passed the grim milestone of 500,000 coronavirus deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Regardless of what the CDC recommends, however, Fauci believes masks could be needed through next year.

“I want it to keep going down to a baseline that’s so low there is virtually no threat,” Fauci said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “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’s comments underscore what experts have been saying for weeks: That even as more people get vaccinated, masks are still going to be essential.

ExploreSCENES OF SORROW: U.S. coronavirus deaths pass 500,000

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is cautioning against viewing the downward case trends as a reason to let up on masking and other safety precautions.

In an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association, Walensky said she hoped for the best but also warned of a worst-case scenario — that people will stop wearing masks and physically distancing too early and that many will prematurely declare they’ve had enough of the pandemic and won’t get vaccinated.

“What worries me a little bit is when you hit September, and then it gets colder again, and there may be a variant that emerges,” and people stop wearing masks and physically distancing, Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told The New York Times last week.

Basic steps such as wearing masks in public and keeping a physical distance from those outside your household will still provide an additional layer of safety, experts say, and help further drive down coronavirus transmission — eventually allowing more parts of the economy to reopen.

The CDC says that continued adherence to public health measures such as wearing face coverings, observing physical distancing, regular handwashing and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated areas is still recommended even for someone who has received both required vaccine doses.

“It’s important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic as we learn more about how COVID-19 vaccines work in real-world conditions,” CDC guidance states, particularly because it’s not yet definitively known “whether getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent you from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to other people, even if you don’t get sick yourself.”

Universal mask wearing, in particular, is seen as critical in keeping the spread of the coronavirus on a downward trend. A recent CDC report found that states that have imposed mask orders have seen declines in the growth of COVID-19-associated hospitalizations.

The new variants have had some health officials urging more precautions with masks.

One way to improve masking is to first put on a paper mask — such as a blue surgical mask — and then put on a tight-fitting cloth mask over that, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. The second mask covers the big gaps that can occur with a paper mask, allowing air to leak around the sides. Another option is to use a cloth mask that has multiple layers of fabric, according to the CDC.

In Other News