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Dr. Fauci Sets the Record Straight About Masks

According to him, this is why the dialogue surrounding masks has changed so dramatically.

Early on in the pandemic, masks were not a recommended method of COVID-19 prevention, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, months later, we consider protective face coverings to be one of the fundamental—if not the most crucial—weapons we have against the highly infectious disease. During last night's debate between President Donald Trump and presidential hopeful Joe Biden, the topic of face masks—and why they weren't recommended from the beginning—came up, and along with it, the name of the nation's go-to infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

There Was a Shortage Early On, He Says

On Wednesday, during an interview with ABC News' Start Here podcast, Dr. Fauci addressed the confusion surrounding masks and why his recommendations to wear them has changed so drastically over the last several months. 

"Very early on in the pandemic … there was a shortage of PPE and masks for health care providers who needed them desperately since they were putting their lives and their safety on the line every day. So the feeling was that people who were wanting to have masks in the community, namely just people out in the street, might be hoarding masks and making the shortage of masks even greater. In that context, we said that we did not recommend masks," Fauci explained. 

However, once it became very clear that masking up worked and that cloth coverings were incredibly effective in preventing the spread of the virus—even working "as well as surgical masks," the dialogue changed, "so the idea of a shortage of masks that would take it away from those who really need it was no longer there because anybody could get a mask."

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Asymptomatic Spread Changed the Game

Then, even more data began showing that masks worked and were especially important due to asymptomatic spread. 

"About 40-45% of all the infections were among individuals who had no symptoms, namely asymptomatic infection," Dr. Fauci said, adding that "it became clear that transmissions, a substantial proportion of them, are transmitted by people without symptoms." 

"So then all of a sudden, it became clear that you would not know if you were infected or if the person that you were dealing with was infected. And at that point, it became clear that A: no shortage of masks, B: data now prove that masks work and 3: there clearly is asymptomatic transmission," he said. 

Ever since, Dr. Fauci has made it his mission to educate people about the importance of masking up. 

"At that point, which is now months and months ago, I have been on the airways, on the radio, on TV, begging people to wear masks. And I keep talking in the context of wear a mask, keep physical distance, avoid crowds, wash your hands and do things more outdoors versus indoors," Fauci said. 

"The other thing that became clear is, in fact, that there was likely a degree of aerosol transmission which make it even more compelling to wear a mask. So anybody who has been listening to me over the last several months know that a conversation does not go by where I do not strongly recommend that people wear masks."

So mask up, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah