TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – The state’s top public health officer said Florida residents could be social distancing and wearing facial coverings for a year because of the coronavirus.

“Until we get a vaccine, which is a while off, this is going to be our new normal and we need to adapt and protect ourselves,” state Surgeon General and Florida Department of Health Secretary Scott Rivkees told reporters.

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When asked to explain his remarks, Rivkees said, “As long as we are going to have COVID in the environment, and this is a tough virus, we are going to have to practice these measures so we are all protected.”

There is no vaccine to prevent infection with the novel coronavirus, which causes the deadly COVID-19 respiratory disease.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and other experts maintain that a vaccine won’t be available for another 12 to 18 months.

When Rivkees was asked to explain how long the “new normal” could last, he said it could be “probably a year, if not longer.”

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As of Monday morning, Florida had 20,601 cases of the novel coronavirus, and 470 residents had died.

State Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said Monday the anticipated peak of the COVID-19 outbreak in Florida has been moved back in a forecast model from April 24 to April 26.

“We continue to watch the models as new data is gathered and prepare accordingly,” Moskowitz said during a news conference at the Capitol with Rivkees and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine had initially put the peak at May 3, basing its forecast on the influx of cases and hospital capacity, along with state and national public-health data and information from the World Health Organization.

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