Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said Sunday that the country is “really at a critical time” in confronting the coronavirus pandemic, as the number of new cases is soaring even as the first 1.9 million Americans have been vaccinated.  Fauci, who was vaccinated last week, told CNN on Sunday that it is “very tough” for people to not socialize over the holidays even though health experts have strongly advised against it.  Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, prepares to receive his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Md., Dec. 22, 2020.Authorities say 85 million Americans are traveling to visit relatives and friends, which they fear will lead to even more infections in the United States. For several weeks now, the U.S. has been recording 200,000 new cases a day.  Fauci said people are “crowded in airports, a mixing of households. As much as we advise against it, it happens.”  Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and named as the chief medical adviser to the incoming Biden administration, unequivocally urged Americans to get inoculated.  Fauci said he hopes that 75% to 80% of the 209 million adult Americans will be vaccinated in the coming months, a figure that might be sufficient for herd immunity to take hold in the country to end the pandemic.  FILE – Staff members receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, N.J., Dec. 17, 2020.He said that with inoculations over the next several months, the U.S. could “reach a critical number of vaccinated” people by the “middle to the end of summer” next August.  That would by then, he said, allow the country to “return to some form of normality.”  The U.S. has started inoculating primary health care workers and elderly residents of nursing homes, with front-line essential workers and those 75 and older set to be next in line for the shots in the next few weeks.  U.S. health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defined front-line essential workers as emergency responders, teachers and other education workers, including day care personnel, food and agriculture workers, correctional facility staff members, postal workers, public transit workers, and people who work in manufacturing and in grocery stores.  Fauci said U.S. health authorities are monitoring mutant strains that have shown up in Britain and South Africa. Officials in those two countries say that the vaccines developed by drug makers Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna will protect against the new strains, but Fauci said that U.S. researchers will be doing their own tests to make sure.  The U.S. has recorded more than 332,000 deaths from the coronavirus and nearly 19 million infections, with both figures more than in any other country, according to the Johns Hopkins University.  

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