Fauci says Covid guidelines 'will be much more liberal' by July 4 if US cases drop

Dr. Anthony Fauci said things "will be much more liberal" by the Fourth of July if US cases drop. Fauci is shown at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 21, 2021. By Devan Cole, CNN

(CNN) -- Federal Covid-19 guidelines "will be much more liberal" by the Fourth of July if US cases drop as more Americans are vaccinated, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday.

"If by the time we get to the Fourth of July, with the rollout of the vaccine, we get the level of infection so low -- I'm not going to be able to tell you exactly what the specific guidelines of the (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) are, but I can tell you for sure (guidelines) will be much more liberal than they are right now about what you can do," the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union."

Asked whether people will return to a degree of normal without masks and distancing by the summer holiday, Fauci, President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, replied: "Yes ... there will be a greater degree of confidence" in that.

The comments from Fauci come nearly a week after the CDC released new guidance saying people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can safely visit with other vaccinated people and small groups of unvaccinated people in some circumstances.

The agency is still urging unvaccinated Americans to socially distance from people who don't live in their home, wear masks and avoid crowds, measures that have been critical to slowing the spread of the deadly virus over the last year.

Fauci also warned that the US could see a situation similar to that in Italy, where a surge in cases due to new variants and other issues caused the government to announce a new lockdown starting Monday.

"They had a diminution of cases. They plateaued and they pulled back on public health measures," he said. "They've opened restaurants. They've opened some of the bars. The younger people particularly stopped wearing masks. All of a sudden you have a surge that went right back up."

He continued: "That's where we are right now. We can avoid that, Jake. We can avoid that if we continue to vaccinate people, get more and more protection without all of a sudden pulling back on public health measures."

And pressed by Tapper on research that suggests no significant difference in coronavirus spreading in schools where students were six feet apart versus three feet apart, Fauci said the findings do indicate to him that three feet of distancing is good enough and that the CDC is aware of the new data.

"I can tell you and promise you, I talk to the CDC, to (Director Rochelle Walensky) every single day," he said. "She is acutely aware of the accumulation of data and the fact that her team will be acting on the data the way they always do."

Appearing later on the program, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, weighed in on the slow pace of his state's vaccine rollout, telling Tapper that Maryland can meet Biden's plan to order states to allow all adults to receive vaccines by May 1 only if they receive more doses from the federal government.

"We can do it today. All we need is the vaccines from the federal government," he said. "We can't purchase vaccines. We can't manufacture vaccines. So if the President and his team is able to deliver, we don't have to wait until May 1, we can get there faster."

In announcing his plan last week, Biden laid out new steps the administration believes makes the May 1 timeline realistic, including expanding the types of professionals who are able to administer vaccine shots. Dentists, veterinarians and paramedics will all be included in the new approved list.

This story has been updated with additional details Sunday.

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