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Dr. Fauci Says We Need a Mask Mandate Now

Look “at the consequences of what happens when we don't,” he said.
Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health (NIH)

With coronavirus cases skyrocketing across the globe, cities are locking down. Alarmed by increasing hospitalizations of his fellow Americans, Dr. Anthony Fauci returned to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Q&A series to sound the alarm—and say, no, we don't need to shut down, but we do need a mask mandate. Read on to find out why, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

Why Did Dr. Fauci Say We Need a Mask Mandate?

The host, Dr. Howard Bauchner, editor-in-chief of JAMA, mentioned that Fauci told CNN's Erin Burnett on Friday evening that: "If people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating." Is that where we need to go, he asked? "Do we really need to get masking up to 90, 95% of the population?"

"I think we do," answered Fauci. "Whenever we looked around at what other countries have done, and even in individual situations in our own country, there is no doubt that masking—and as I made the title of our paper in JAMA, Howard, and 'other low tech type' interventions" he said, referencing a recent paper he wrote, "if you put masking with keeping distances and avoiding congregates and crowds and try to do the thing outdoors more than indoors, it makes a difference. It really, really does." 

Fauci made sure to clarify he meant the government should require people to wear masks; he wasn't advocating for a shutdown. "Now, do you know what I mean? We don't want to shut down completely. I mean, that's almost radioactive now, when you say that, because of the situation of not wanting to hurt the economy. Well, if you don't want to shut down, at least do the fundamental, basic things, which are really the flagship of which is wearing a mask. And that's the reason why we've got to do it. What we can't have is this very inconsistent wearing that you see where you see some states that absolutely refuse to wear a mask. And as we've said on our broadcast in previous times, how it almost becomes a political statement? We've got to get away from that."

Dr. Fauci Said If You Want to Depoliticize Masks, Look at the Human Toll

Dr. Bauchner compared wearing masks to seat belts. "Tony," he asked, "you and I are old enough to know we grew up not wearing seatbelts. [Now], almost no one I know ever gets in a car and doesn't put their seatbelt on. It's just normal behavior. And it hasn't been politicalized. How do we get there with masking?"

"You know, well, we get there by looking at the consequences of what happens when we don't," said Fauci. "I mean, that's the thing that we have to sort of shake each other by the collar and say, take, look at what's going on. Look at the data. It speaks for itself. We're in a very difficult situation and countries that have done it the other way have done it and been successful. So let's put aside these extraordinary excuses for not doing it. When we're dealing with a situation that's not trivial. You know, we have 225,000 deaths. The modeling tells us we're going to get a hundred or more thousand as we get into the winter. That is just something that's unacceptable."

A Mask Mandate Could Save 130,000 Lives, Says One Study

There is evidence to support Fauci's case. "Masks aren't required in all U.S. states, but a new study suggests that a national mask mandate could significantly reduce COVID-19 deaths over the next few months, as flu season and increased indoor activities threaten to accelerate the pandemic's health impacts," reported Marketwatch just yesterday. "If such a national mask mandate were in place, it could save nearly 130,000 lives by February 2021, according to forecasts made by researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Their findings were published recently in Nature Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal."

So wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, only travel if you must (including over Thanksgiving and the holidays) wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.