Fauci: 'Unlikely' US will see COVID-19 surge in fall, winter

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciWebb: Pretzel logic  More than 40 Texas hospitals face ICU bed shortages FDA mulling to allow 'mix and match' COVID-19 vaccine booster shots: report MORE, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, said Sunday that the U.S. is unlikely to see a surge of COVID-19 infections over the fall and winter like it did last year, pointing to the widespread availability of vaccines as a "game changer" that would prevent future surges.

"Well, the fact that we have vaccines right now, Chuck, is really a game changer," Fauci told host Chuck ToddCharles (Chuck) David ToddArkansas governor backs employer vaccine mandates Paid family leave is 'not a vacation,' Buttigieg says Grisham thinks Trump will run in 2024 and have no 'guardrails' MORE on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I mean, 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."

"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," Fauci added.

More than 150 million Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and the Biden administration has shifted to urging holdouts to get their jab amid reports that vaccine hesitancy is now the main obstacle to increasing the U.S. vaccination rate.

About 34 percent of the U.S. is fully vaccinated, a percentage that remains far short of the 70 percent or 80 percent health officials have said is necessary to achieve herd immunity in the U.S.

Fauci also said 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.

Fauci told Todd that he thought some Americans might choose to continue wearing masks in public due to the normalization of the practice.

"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," said Fauci.

"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," he continued.