WASHINGTON DC (CNN) - Imagine children returning to school with no need for masks, sports fans packing into stadiums and movie-lovers visiting cinemas.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says those normal activities could be possible again by fall.
But the immediate future isn't that bright as COVID-19 cases and deaths hit record-highs.
As 2020 draws to a close, fresh signs of a deepening crisis that could make January a particularly challenging month.
America hitting a new high for COVID-19 deaths for the second day in a row -- more than 3700 people losing their lives to the virus -- as the CDC projects as many as 80-thousand more people will die in the next three weeks.
Hard-hit Los Angeles County surpassing 10,000 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
"We are at our capacity, and, while we're seeing the caseload begin to level off, we know that two or three weeks of more hospitalizations and more deaths that follow last week and the week before caseload," Mayor Eric Garcetti said. "We are still going to have our toughest, darkest days."
Hospitalizations nationwide also setting a record -- again -- on Wednesday.
Twelve states reaching new highs for hospitalizations - including Georgia -- where officials have set up a field hospital in an Atlanta Convention Center.
And with California becoming the second state to identify a case of the more contagious coronavirus variant first discovered in the United Kingdom, doctors say it raises the stakes for getting the vaccines out faster.
Even as experts acknowledge distribution so far is falling short -- just 2.8 million doses administered out of some 12.4 million distributed -- a tiny fraction of the 20 million dose goal government officials set.
"We would have liked to have seen it run smoothly and have had 20 million doses into people today by the end of the 2020, which was the projection," Fauci said. "Obviously, it didn't happen, and that's disappointing."
Several states facing problems getting shots into arms.
"Maybe my expectations were too high that the vaccine would have been rolled out faster in a much more efficient manner than it has been," Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania said. "The demand at this point far exceeds the supply."
Fauci says that giving more people a first dose of vaccine to provide some protection -- is "under consideration."
"You can make an argument, and some people are, about stretching out the doses by giving a single dose across the board and hoping you're going to get the second dose in time to give to individuals," Fauci said.
The assistant secretary for health says he expects vaccine distribution to ramp up in January.
And, two new coronavirus vaccines might receive authorization in the new year.