• Fauci told New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy that masks and social distancing will still be key to help the U.S. "get back to normal" after a vaccine is available
  • Fauci's comments echoed CDC Director Robert Redfield's to the Senate during a Sept. 16 subcommittee hearing
  • As of Friday, John Hopkins said the U.S. was nearing 7 million confirmed cases

As the U.S. coronavirus pandemic neared 7 million confirmed cases  Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned a vaccine would not eliminate the need for social distancing and masks to keep the virus’ spread under control.

“When the vaccine comes, we look at it as an important tool to supplement the public health measures that we do,” Fauci said in a Facebook Live conversation with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday. “It will allow us to more quickly and with less stringency to get back to some degree of normal but it is not going to eliminate the need to be prudent and careful with our public health measures.”

Fauci reasoned that a vaccine would, at best, be “70 to 75% effective” because of the potential vaccines’ apparent rushed development. He also said it was unlikely all Americans would get inoculated when one becomes available.

“I think if we can get 75 to 80% of the population vaccinated, I think that would be a really good accomplishment,” Fauci said, adding the U.S. could get “back to normal” by mid- to late-2021 if a vaccine is ready by December.

“That means that theoretically, you could vaccinate everybody then but in reality, the logistics and practicality of getting people vaccinated likely will be until the second or third or beginning of the fourth quarter of the year when we sort of ‘get back to normal.’”

Fauci’s comments echoed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield during his Sept. 16 Senate hearing.

“If you’re asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we’re probably looking at ... late second quarter, third quarter 2021,” Redfield said.

“These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have. If we did it for six, eight, 10, 12 weeks, we'd bring this pandemic under control.”

As of Friday, John Hopkins Tracking Center said the U.S. had almost 6.98 million confirmed cases and 202,827 reported deaths from coronavirus.

The latest surge was seen in the Midwest where several states reported a significant rise in cases over the last month. North and South Dakota accounted for the largest increases with well over 8,000 during September, partly credited to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that ran from Aug. 7 to Aug. 16.  The rally drew over 460,000 attendees, most of whom  were seen not practicing social distancing or wearing masks at the event.

Similar concerns surround the Lake of the Ozarks motorcycle rally in Missouri, which ran from Sept. 16 to Sept. 20 and was attended by roughly 125,000 people.

Top infectious diseases official Anthony Fauci Top infectious disease official Anthony Fauci said a safe vaccine could be available by the end of the calendar year. Photo: Pool / KEVIN DIETSCH