WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is cautioning Americans that a return to normalcy from the COVID-19 pandemic could still be a ways off.
During Tuesday night's CNN town hall, the president was asked when he thought the U.S. will truly get back to normal.
While Biden stressed that we don't know for certain, he pointed to the goal of "herd immunity," which is when enough people are protected from a virus, either from vaccination or a past infection. Many experts say at least 70% of the population needs to be protected to reach herd immunity.
"As my mother would say, with the grace of God and the goodwill of the neighbors, that by next Christmas I think we'll be in a very different circumstance, God willing, than we are today," Biden cautiously predicted. "A year from now I think that there'll be significantly fewer people having to be socially distanced, having to wear a mask. But we don't know."
The president stressed that until we reach herd immunity it'll matter whether Americans continue to wear masks and practice social distancing.
When asked on Wednesday to elaborate on the president's comments, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration is not in a place currently to predict when everyone will feel a sense of normalcy.
A big factor in reaching herd immunity will rely on enough Americans getting vaccinated for coronavirus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, told CNN prior to Tuesday's town hall that the general public likely won’t have access to the COVID-19 vaccine until May or June, pushing back earlier estimates that the vaccine would be available to all Americans by April.
During his town hall remarks, Biden pointed to the two already approved vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna, and the expectation that Johnson & Johnson's one-dose shot will receive emergency approval soon.
But the White House cautioned Wednesday that Johnson & Johnson has just a “few million” doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in inventory ready to be distributed.
Coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients is looking to lower expectations for the impact of approval for the promising, one-dose vaccine, which could happen in the next several weeks. The company has contracted to provide 100 million doses — enough for 100 million Americans — by the end of June.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.