INDIANAPOLIS — As many states across the country continue to break daily COVID-19 records, the nation's top infectious disease expert is offering a glimmer of hope.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said the United States could start getting back to "normal" as early as April of next year.
"There's light at the end of the tunnel," Fauci said. "Help is coming, and that should motivate people to say, 'We are gonna double-down and do this uniformly.'"
In an exclusive interview with CNN, Fauci said when we can gather again freely depends on a number of factors. He pointed to Pfizer's announcement that its early data shows its vaccine is more than 90 percent effective.
A second company, Moderna, said Monday early data shows its vaccine is nearly 95 percent effective.
"I think that if we get most of the country vaccinated in the second, third quarter of the year, and the vaccine continues to prove its efficacy, and people adhere to those fundamental measures, I think we can start approaching by degree. It's not going to be a light switch."
Meanwhile, the U.S. has surpassed 11 million COVID-19 cases and 246,000 deaths, as many states are still breaking records daily.
"A month ago, we had one thousand people in our hospital in Ohio. A week ago — just a week ago — we had 2,000, and now we have 3,000," said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.
In Indiana, the state reached new highs for daily cases and hospitalizations on Nov. 13 — 8,315 and 2,634, respectively.
Even before next April, the death toll from the pandemic could be devastating. An influential COVID-19 model projects the U.S. death toll may reach 439,000 by March 1.
Health experts and lawmakers are urging people to stay vigilant and continue to follow public health measures.
"We could see the end of this," DeWine said. "We just have to tough it out a few more months and do what we need to do to get through this."