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(NEXSTAR) – The nation’s leading infectious disease expert said Sunday that it’s “possible” Americans will need to continue wearing masks into 2022 to protect against COVID-19.

Asked by CNN’s Dana Bash whether Americans will need to continue masking into next year, Dr. Anthony Fauci responded: “I think it’s possible that that’s the case.”

Fauci went on to predict when the U.S. will see a degree of “normality.”

“I think we’ll have a significant degree of normality…as we get into the fall and winter by the end of the year,” he said.

So when can we stop masking? Fauci wasn’t certain. He did say that “if you combine getting most of the people in the country vaccinated with getting the level of the virus in the community very, very low, then you’ll say, for the most part, we don’t have to wear masks.”

“I want to see [the COVID-19 numbers] go way down,” he continued. “When it goes way down and the overwhelming majority of people are vaccinated, then I’d feel comfortable saying we don’t need to wear masks.”

Fauci said it was difficult to predict when life would go back to normal: “There are so many other things that would make a projection I give you today wind up not being the case six months from now.”

Over 28 million people in the U.S. have been infected with COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins. 497,000 people have died.