In a complete 180-degree turn, American infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has claimed that there is a “very low” chance of Wuhan coronavirus transmission outdoors. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said updated guidance on the use of face masks will soon be released because of this new information. Fauci’s comments followed different states gradually loosening restrictions alongside COVID-19 immunization drives.
During an appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC, Fauci said that the risk of people contracting COVID-19 outdoors is “really very low, particularly if [one is] vaccinated.” He continued: “If you are vaccinated person [who is] wearing a mask outdoors … obviously, the risk is miniscule.”
The NIAID director then remarked that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will revise its guidelines on wearing face coverings in public. Responding to a question as to whether the U.S. was “heading towards normal,” Fauci replied in the affirmative. He then remarked that relaxing some coronavirus-related restrictions is “common sense.”
Fauci also lauded the ongoing COVID-19 immunization drives in different states across the nation. He commented: “The more we take a look at the data as it accumulates, we see [vaccines are] even more effective than what the initial numbers of the clinical trial [show] … and we’re doing very well.”
According to the infectious disease expert, more than 30 percent of the U.S.’s adult population is fully vaccinated. “More than 50 percent of the adult population is getting at least one dose, which gives them certainly some protection – until they get the next dose,” he added. However, Fauci warned: “[We’re] having still about 60,000 new infections per day. That’s a precarious level, and we don’t want that to go up.”
The NIAID director’s conversation with Stephanopoulos was a far cry from the grim projection he shared with journalist Anderson Cooper. Earlier in April, Fauci drew flak for saying that the “disturbing” number of new cases preceded a fourth wave of infections. “Certainly, deaths … and hospitalizations are coming down. [But] the number that is disturbing is the number of cases each day,” he told Cooper.
The NIAID official has been on the receiving end of criticism for his contradicting advice on the use of face masks. Footage of the infectious disease expert from March 2020 saying that there was “no reason to be walking around with a mask” circulated on social media.
The footage came from a 60 Minutes interview aired in March of last year, during the pandemic’s early stages. The NIAID director elaborated: “When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet. [But] it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is.” He also mentioned “unintended consequences” of mask-wearing such as people fiddling with their masks and touching their faces. (Related: CDC says masks work better than vaccines at preventing COVID-19.)
Fauci later walked back on his remarks and advocated for masks in public settings. He claimed his initial remarks were meant to ensure American health care workers had sufficient amounts of face masks and other personal protective equipment. Later, a May 2020 report by POLITICO said Fauci wears a mask for two main reasons. First, he chooses to do as a form of “respect for another person” – arguing that people who wear masks protect each other. Second, he wears a mask as “a symbol … [of] the kind of thing [people] should be doing” amid this pandemic.
The NIAID head also mentioned contradictory guidance on the issue of double-masking. During a January 2021 TODAY interview, Fauci said that it was “common sense” to wear two masks. He explained: “If you have a physical covering with one layer [and] you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective.” (Related: Wisconsin Senate overturns statewide mask mandate as Fauci doubles down on masks.)
But later that month, Fauci expressed his hesitation toward double-masking. “There is nothing wrong with wearing two masks, but there is no data that indicates that it makes a difference,” he told the heads of two teachers’ unions in a virtual fireside chat. The NIAID director further explained that even the CDC does not recommend that people wear two masks.
Pandemic.news has more articles on the contradicting COVID-19 guidance issued by Fauci.