Fauci hopes for return to normal by Christmas, in line with Biden target

FILE PHOTO: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci addresses the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 21, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday said that a post-pandemic return to “normal” could come by the end of the year, aligning his forecast with a Christmas target U.S. President Joe Biden set earlier this week.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), had guided Americans to the long-sought return to something approaching normal life in the early Autumn.

Speaking to MSNBC, Fauci said there are many factors - including the emergence of variants of the coronavirus that are more contagious - that will influence when Americans can return to activities that have been stopped by the pandemic.

Americans might be able to get back to below capacity theaters and indoor dining “somewhere between the fall and the end of the year” while something much closer to life before the pandemic would likely be “as the president said, by the end of the year, by Christmas,” Fauci said. “Maybe you’re going to still have to wear masks,” he noted.

During a CNN town hall on Tuesday, Biden set Christmas as a time for a possible return to normal life.

Highly contagious virus variants could increase cases and interfere with the timeline, Fauci said, but added that he still hoped for a return to normal for the fall or winter.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Caroline Humer; Editing by Bill Berkrot