Connecticut is “in a good place” when it comes to controlling the COVID-19 virus and is unlikely to see a resurgence if the state continues its vigilance in adhering to protocols like mask wearing and mitigating crowds, according to the nation’s top infectious-disease doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Joining Gov. Ned Lamont during the state’s daily coronavirus update Monday, Fauci had continued optimism that a vaccine would be approved by the end of this year and widely distributed by the second half of 2021, as he informed Connecticut residents that they can already take part in phase three clinical trials for a potential drug.

“The numbers are really indicative that you’re in a situation that you now, in many respects, have the upper hand because you have such a low rate that when you do get new cases, you have the capability of containment as opposed to mitigation,” Fauci said. “The other thing I heard from the governor that I’m very pleased with is that despite favorable numbers, you’re not pulling back on your vigilance in making sure you don’t have a resurgence of cases that would put you back rather than stay where you are and going forward.”

Fauci’s appearance comes after months of relatively few media appearances and reports from the New York Times and other outlets that the White House muzzled Fauci, though Fauci later denied that on MSNBC.

Connecticut has consistently led the country in maintaining a low positivity rate for new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, despite being an early hot spot for the virus.

While Fauci used the state as an example — applauding the state’s approach to containing and mitigating the spread — even Connecticut has seen protests from groups opposed to mask wearing and social distancing, and who say the virus is a hoax. But Fauci was clear: any reports that mask wearing is ineffective, “are untrue and misleading.”

Fauci, who testified before Congress with other health officials on Friday, again appeared hopeful about the development of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year and getting the virus under control if Americans are vigilant about wearing masks and avoiding crowds.

Fauci said there are several vaccine candidates and two have entered into stage 3 clinical trials — that means thousands of people across the country will test the potential vaccines at 89 clinical trial sites across the country. Connecticut residents can find a trial site in the state and sign up to participate at coronaviruspreventionnetwork.org, Fauci said.

“Clearly we have at least cautious optimism,” Fauci said.

Lamont announced during the briefing a set of metrics for school districts to use in determine the level of in-person learning that will be safe for the upcoming year. While schools should be prepared to change course, it appears every district in the state is in a position to open for as much in-person learning as possible. Fauci said schools should try to open for in-person learning as much as possible.

Fauci emphasized universal mask wearing, continued avoidance of crowds, maintaining six feet of social distancing wherever possible, vigilant hand washing, and staying outdoors as much as possible

And “Stay away from bars,” Fauci said. “I know that’s difficult from an economic standpoint, but that’s a big spreader of infection.”

“Just those five or six things are very important and you have been successful in containing outbreaks as well as preventing the resurgences,” he said.

In February, Fauci appeared on the podcast of Community Health Center Inc., a Connecticut based provider of primary health care services for the uninsured and underserved.

kkrasselt@hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2563; @kaitlynkrasselt