Dr. Anthony Fauci says while he remains confident a COVID-19 vaccine will come this year, it may be late 2021 before life returns to normal in the U.S.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday that the issue is how long it will take to get the vaccine out to enough people.
"By the time you mobilize the distribution of the vaccine and get a majority or more of the population vaccinated and protected, that's likely not going to happen until the end of 2021," Fauci told MSNBC. "If you're talking about getting back to a degree of normality prior to COVID, it's going to be well into 2021, towards the end of 2021."
In a panel discussion with Harvard Medical School doctors Thursday, Fauci reportedly said the U.S. needs to prepare for some difficult months as flu season begins. Fauci reportedly said he'd like to get the daily number of about 40,000 new cases down to 10,000 or less.
"We've been through this before," Fauci said, according to The Hill. "Don't ever, ever underestimate the potential of the pandemic. And don't try and look at the rosy side of things."
Fauci's comments come after it was revealed in audio recordings by journalist Bob Woodward that President Donald Trump said he wanted to downplay the severity of the virus.
“I wanted to always play it down,” the president told Woodward in March. “I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.”
In a Feb. 7 call with Woodward, Trump said of the virus: "You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”
“This is deadly stuff,” the president repeated for emphasis.
Three days later, Trump struck a far rosier tone in an interview with Fox Business: “I think the virus is going to be — it’s going to be fine.”
Trump on Wednesday stood by his decision, saying he was being a "cheerleader" for the nation and wanted to avoid a panic.
More than 6.4 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 192,000 people have died.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.