Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, admitted Tuesday that health experts, including himself, downplayed the efficacy of face masks in preventing the spread of COVID-19 out of concern that Americans would snap up the available stock and there would be none left for health care workers.
Speaking to The Street, Fauci discussed the need for face masks to keep coronavirus infections low, particularly in states where large protests and rallies have made social distancing difficult and suggested that individuals who use early expert recommendations that cautioned against masks as an excuse to leave the face coverings at home may want to revisit the science now that masks are widely available.
“[We] were concerned the public health community, and many people were saying this, we’re concerned that it was at a time when personal protective equipment, including the N95 masks and the surgical masks, were in very short supply,” Fauci said, referring back to early anti-masking guidelines.
“We wanted to make sure that the people, namely the health care workers, who were brave enough to put themselves in a harm way, to take care of people who you know were infected with the coronavirus and the danger of them getting infected,” Fauci said.
Fauci was far from the only official who cautioned against face masks in the early days of the pandemic. The World Health Organization, which has been largely unreliable on the topic of the virus, also suggested that masks should not be worn or would in any way hinder the spread of the virus — at least early on.
The United States Surgeon General has the most cited advice on the issue, once tweeting that masks are “NOT effective in preventing the general public from catching coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”
Now, Fauci, like others, has become an advocate for masks, as he noted in a previous interview.
“Masks are not 100 percent protective. However, they certainly are better than not wearing a mask,” Fauci said in a press conference. “Both to prevent you, if you happen to be a person who maybe feels well, but has an asymptomatic infection that you don’t even know about, to prevent you from infecting someone else, but also it can protect you a certain degree, not a hundred percent, in protecting you from getting infected from someone who, either is breathing, or coughing, or sneezing, or singing or whatever it is in which the droplets or the aerosols go out. So masks work.”
States and other entities are also requiring masks to be worn when social distancing is not possible, such as in indoor dining rooms and retailers, in medical offices, and in most workplaces.
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