TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As the nation reaches a grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic, you might be wondering when things will return to normal.

The US death toll is expected to hit 500,000 on Monday. Although Florida has seen lower cases in recent months, the public will still need to follow some precautions.

The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the public will still need to wear masks until most of the country is vaccinated against the virus and case numbers are “very, very low.”

“I want to see [the COVID-19 numbers] go way down,” he continued. “When it goes way down and the overwhelming majority of people are vaccinated, then I’d feel comfortable saying we don’t need to wear masks.”

“If you combine getting most of the people in the country vaccinated with getting the level of the virus in the community very, very low, then you’ll say, for the most part, we don’t have to wear masks.”

He said by fall or winter of this year, we could see somewhat of a return to normalcy.

“I think we’ll have a significant degree of normality…as we get into the fall and winter by the end of the year,” he said.

But with over 28 million people infected with the virus, and nearly 500,000 dead, Fauci said it will be a long time before we can put this pandemic behind us.

“It’s something that is stunning when you look at the numbers. Almost unbelievable but it’s true. This is a devastating pandemic and it’s historic. People will be talking about this decades and decades and decades from now,” Fauci said.

There’s concern from teachers and educators about opening up schools the danger they face during the pandemic.

“Obviously being in school is very similar to being in the community so the risk of a teacher getting infected in the school is very likely very much similar to what you would see in the community, but we don’t know that yet,” said Dr. Fauci.

Dr. Fauci went on to say that he believes every teacher should be vaccinated before going back to school, but that is a “non-workable” solution. He says as many teachers as possible should get the vaccine, and they should be bumped up on the priority list.

President Joe Biden will remember the nearly 500,000 lives lost with a candle lighting ceremony and moment of silent Monday evening at the White House.

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