Dr. Fauci reflects on the pandemic's 1-year mark and how to get back to 'normality'

Pulling back must be gradual to avid triggering another surge, he said.

March 11, 2021, 9:08 AM

One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci told "Good Morning America" Thursday that the "answer to get us back to normality" is a blend of vaccinations and a "gradual" easing of restrictions.

That includes "a combination of a very, very aggressive implementation of the vaccine program -- which you are actually seeing in real time -- together with a continuation of public health measures and a gradual pulling back, as opposed to just turning a light switch on and off," he said.

PHOTO: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president, appears on "Good Morning America," March 11, 2021.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president, appears on "Good Morning America," March 11, 2021.
ABC News

It's "much better to do that gradually and prudently," he stressed.

"That has happened in the past -- at least a couple of times over the past year," Fauci said.

Fauci said the most important message for President Joe Biden to deliver in his prime-time address Thursday is that the nation has "come a very long way over this past year" and "there is light at the end of the tunnel."

PHOTO: People receive the COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Las Vegas, Feb. 17, 2021.
People receive the COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Las Vegas, Feb. 17, 2021.
John Locher/AP
PHOTO: Liana Fonseca looks away as she receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, March 9, 2021, in Miami.
Liana Fonseca looks away as she receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, March 9, 2021, in Miami. Thousands packed the mass vaccination site at Miami Dade College, many waiting three hours or more to get the vaccine. By mid morning the site had ran out of the one dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine an only the Pfizer vaccine was available.
Marta Lavandier/AP

Among the "lights" in the tunnel to look for? Fauci said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be rolling out recommendations "imminently" for activities for vaccinated individuals.

Thursday marks one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Looking back, Fauci said, "It was exactly one year ago this morning that I said, 'Things are gonna get much worse before they get better.' But I did not realize in my mind even anything close to more than half a million people having died in this country."

PHOTO: A solitary woman checks her cellphone on a normally busy North Avenue inside what's called a "containment area" in New Rochelle, N.Y., Wednesday, March 11, 2020. State officials on Tuesday called for closing schools and houses of worship.
A solitary woman checks her cellphone on a normally busy North Avenue inside what's called a "containment area" in New Rochelle, N.Y., Wednesday, March 11, 2020. State officials on Tuesday called for closing schools, houses of worship and any other spaces were large numbers of people gather within a 1-mile radius (1.6 kilometers) of a point near a synagogue where an infected person had attended events. (AP Photo/Chris Erhmann)
Chris Ehrmann/AP
PHOTO: The Bob Devaney Sports Center is being prepared for the Nebraska boys basketball tournament, in Lincoln, Neb., March 11, 2020, which they were planning to play as scheduled but with only players' immediate families allowed into the venues as fans.
The Bob Devaney Sports Center is being prepared for the Nebraska boys basketball tournament, in Lincoln, Neb., March 11, 2020, which they were planning to play as scheduled but with only players' immediate families allowed into the venues as fans.
Nati Harnik/AP, FILE

At least 529,267 Americans have died from COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement Thursday, "After a year of this fight, we are tired, we are lonely, we are impatient. There have been too many missed family gatherings, too many lost milestones and opportunities, too many sacrifices. And still, through it all, there is determination; there are stories of giving and hope, of stamina and perseverance. We are better together, and together, we will endure.

"The vaccination of millions every day gives me hope," Walensky said. "Hope that we can beat this pandemic. And hope that we can get back to being with our family, friends, and community. And soon."

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