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Despite predicting Americans would return to a “significant degree of normality” by fall, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that it is also “possible” people may still be wearing masks outside their homes into 2022.

“I want it to keep going down to a baseline that’s so low there is virtually no threat,” Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser for COVID-19, told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

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“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, for the most part, we don’t necessarily have to wear masks,” Fauci added, referencing the number of COVD-19 cases nationwide that would make him comfortable enough to consider backing away from mask recommendations, The New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19-related fatalities across the nation is expected to eclipse half a million within the next 24 hours, and an estimated 90,000 more Americans are likely to die from the virus by June 1, USA Today reported.

Despite a potentially grim June 1 death toll of nearly 590,000 Americans, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projected that daily deaths could drop to fewer than 500 by then, compared with the roughly 2,000 deaths per day currently being reported, the outlet reported.

“While it’s possible to reach herd immunity by next winter, it seems increasingly unlikely we will do so and, in light of that, we all need to shift our expectations,” the institute stated.

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