Doctor Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said in a recent interview that it is “very likely” safe for family members who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 to hug each other.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been very difficult for families throughout the world. Grandparents have been prevented from seeing their children and grandchildren, more than one-third of young adults now frequently feel isolated and lonely, and hundreds of thousands of kids have had school and social activities cancelled for months on end.

Many Americans just want to know when life will get back to normal.

The continued ramp-up in COVID-19 vaccinations combined with the precipitous decline in cases over the last six weeks provides hope that society will continue to return to normalcy over the coming months. Then, we can all begin the work of rebuilding some of the relationships with friends and family that we may have neglected for the past year.

In a recent interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Fauci detailed what activities he believes are permissible for vaccinated individuals to engage in.

“I want to ask you about life after vaccination,” Mitchell said. “You were suggesting there are some studies that show you won’t be able to asymptomatically transmit it to other people after vaccination… What can people do in their lives once they are vaccinated?” she asked.

“If you’re vaccinated, and you have a member of your family vaccinated, someone that does not live with you, can I actually be with them without a mask, can I sit down and give them a hug and things like that?” Fauci asked rhetorically.

“And the answer is, very likely, of course you can,” he said.

Fauci then went on to suggest that even if someone is vaccinated, they won’t be able to dine indoors at restaurants or go to movie theaters “because it’s not going to be opening.”

A few days after his appearance on MSNBC, Fauci caught heat for again suggesting that even if someone is vaccinated, they are many things they will not be able to do.

Speaking at a White House press briefing via teleconference, Fauci said, “there are things, even if you’re vaccinated, that you’re not going to be able to do in society: for example, indoor dining, theaters, places where people congregate. That’s because of the safety of society.”

“We want to make sure that people continue to wear masks despite the fact that they’re vaccinated,” Fauci added.

Doctor Fauci also recently received criticism for suggesting that Americans will need to wear facemasks for another year.

Asked by CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” what “normal” means and whether Americans will still need to wear facemasks into 2022, Fauci replied, “You know, I think it is possible that that’s the case.”

After Bash pressed Fauci on his reasoning for continuing facemasks through next year, Fauci added that he wants people to continue wearing masks until there is “virtually no threat” posed by the virus.

“I want it (the virus) to keep going down to a baseline that’s so low that there’s virtually no threat… a minimal, minimal threat that you will be exposed to someone who is infected… So 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, you know, for the most part we don’t necessarily have to wear masks,” Fauci said.

On February 22, the United States had 55,419 new cases of COVID-19 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is down 82% from the peak of 315,106 new cases on January 8.

However, Fauci told Bash that even 20,000 new cases per day is still a “very high level of virus in the community.”

“I want to see it go way down. When it goes way down… then I would feel comfortable saying, you know, we need to pull back on the masks,” Fauci added.

The CDC reports that 65,032,083 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered as of February 23.

Hopefully, that means Americans are doing less worrying and more hugging.

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