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Dr. Anthony Fauci believes that while mask requirements will continue to be lifted as more Americans get vaccinated, people may still choose to wear them from time to time.
During a recent Meet the Press interview, Fauci — the nation's top infectious diseases expert — noted that in addition to helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19, masks also played a big role in the big decline of influenza cases.
"I think people have gotten used to the fact that wearing masks, clearly, if you look at the data, diminishes respiratory diseases. We've had practically a nonexistent flu season this year merely because people were doing the kind of public health things that were directed predominantly against COVID-19," he explained.
"It is conceivable that as we go on, a year or two or more from now, that during certain seasonal periods when you have respiratory-borne viruses like the flu, people might actually elect to wear masks to diminish the likelihood that you'll spread these respiratory-born diseases," he added.
As of May 1, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, officials only know of one child in the U.S. who has died of the flu this season. In comparison, there have been hundreds of pediatric deaths in previous years.
Al Drago/Getty Dr. Anthony Fauci
Last month, the CDC released new guidance, saying that fully vaccinated Americans can go outdoors without masks in small social settings. (The CDC still says that unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks in all settings, except for at home.)
The shift in guidance is based on growing data that shows that the chance of COVID-19 transmission while outdoors is low, combined with the increase in Americans who are fully vaccinated, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky explained in a press conference.
Although the CDC currently recommends that fully vaccinated people should still wear a mask indoors, Fauci has predicted that those guidelines could soon be lifted.
"I think you're going to probably see that as we go along and as more people get vaccinated," he said during an interview on ABC's This Week on Sunday. "The CDC will be, almost in real time, be updating their recommendations and their guidelines.""
"We do need to start being more liberal as we get more people vaccinated," he added, noting that as the number of people who are vaccinated grows, "the risk of any infection — indoor or outdoor — diminishes dramatically."
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As for what the country could look like next year, Fauci added that he hoped "that next Mother's Day, we're doing to see a dramatic difference."
"I believe that we will be about as close to back to normal as we can," he said on This Week, noting that this will only be possible if Americans continue to get vaccinated.
Last week, President Joe Biden set a new vaccination goal, sharing that he hopes 70% of adults will have received at least their first dose by the Fourth of July.
As of May 10, 58% of the U.S. adult population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 114,258,244 are now fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
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