Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US top infectious diseases expert, said on Sunday that the US is unlikely to see a surge of COVID-19 infections over the fall and winter like it did last year.
Speaking in an interview with NBC, Fauci said that "the fact that we have vaccines right now is really a game changer."
"If we get, which we will, to the goals that the president has established, namely if we get 70 percent of the people vaccinated by the Fourth of July, namely one single dose, and even more thereafter, you may see blips. But if we handle them well, it is unlikely that you'll see the kind of surge that we saw in the late fall and the early winter," he added.
"That's the reason why vaccinations are so important. That's the wild card that we have now that we didn't have last fall or last winter," said Fauci.
US President Joe Biden announced last week that over 150 million Americans have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to date, adding his current goal was to have 160 million Americans fully vaccinated by July 4 and to have given at least one vaccine dose to 70% of the adult population by that date.
Fauci said on Sunday that some Americans may "elect" to continue wearing masks in public for at least part of the year, particularly during flu season, due to the success health officials saw in preventing the spread of the seasonal flu as a result of mask mandates.
"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 kinds of public health things that were directed predominantly against COVID-19," he said.
"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-borne diseases," added Fauci.