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Dr. Fauci Has This Big Regret About the COVID Pandemic

Here’s what Dr. Fauci wishes he had known then.

Chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci is reflecting on the past few years of pandemic life, sharing his major regrets about the way COVID-19 was handled. Here is what Dr. Fauci has to say. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


COVID-19 Response Should Have Been More Stringent

Woman and man in social distancing sitting on bench in park

Dr. Fauci is expressing regret about not having stricter pandemic restrictions right from the start. "We know now, two and a half years later, that anywhere from 50 to 60 percent of the transmission occur from someone without symptoms, either someone who never will get symptoms or someone who is in the pre-symptomatic stage," says Dr. Fauci. "Had we known that then, the insidious nature of spread in the community would have been much more of an alarm and there would have been much, much more stringent restrictions in the sense of very, very heavy, encouraging people to wear masks, physical distancing or what have you."


Mask On, Mask Off


Dr. Fauci actually advised against wearing masks at the beginning of the pandemic, suggesting they wouldn't be effective. "If you look at the masks that you buy in a drug store, the leakage around that doesn't really do much to protect you," he said at the time. Now, Dr. Fauci is a passionate advocate of mask-wearing, advising that people shouldn't hesitate to resume wearing masks if infection rates in the community get too high. "Had we known what we know now back then, I think the masking situation is one that would have been done differently," says Dr. Fauci. "First of all we did not fully appreciate that a well-fitted K95 or KN95 mask is much much better than a cloth mask. And to wear a good mask, the data now are very clear, that masks are very good at preventing both the acquisition and transmission of infection. There was a lot of conflicting data back then as we were in the early months of 2020. So the recommendations were a bit confusing… Right now we are very, very clear that masks do work in prevention, acquisition, and transmission, but you have to get a well-fitted mask that has a high quality and the two we know that are high quality are an N95 or a KN95."


Aerosol Spread of COVID-19

with sneezing at city street, woman without protective mask while spreading flu,cold, Covid-19

Dr. Fauci says he wishes they had known more about the way COVID-19 is spread right from the start. "We also were not fully aware as we are now that this virus is also spread by aerosol spread, which we did not fully realize at the time, there were some hints of that," says Dr. Fauci. "So again, there are a lot of things, had we had the knowledge that we have now, that we would have done a bit differently."


We Didn't Know Immunity Wanes

sick person

"What was not clear then, but is very clear now, [is] that the protection against natural infection as well as vaccination wanes over a period of time," says Dr. Fauci. "That is very, very different from some of the other infections that we deal with, such as measles, and polio, and the ancient smallpox, where when you get infected or you get vaccinated, the level of protection is measured in decades, if not a lifetime. So the people who were talking about natural immunity were making an assumption—in some part, not everyone—that once you get infected you were protected very, very well for an extended period of time. Then we found out that if you get infected and vaccinated, that hybrid immunity is much better than infection alone or vaccine alone. These were all things that evolved in our understanding of them, because we are indeed dealing with a moving target."


Should Schools Have Been Closed?

rear view of father and little daughter holding hands and walking to school bus

"Clearly, whenever you close schools, there are collateral effects that are negative," Dr. Fauci says. "I have always been well aware of that, and I have always felt that we need to do everything we can to keep the schools open and safe—and by safe, [that] means if you need to wear a mask, wear masks, get better ventilation. Surround the children by people who are vaccinated, if vaccines are available, to help protect the children. Again, I have been on the record saying that always try to the best of your ability to keep the children in school, but in a safe environment. Locally a decision is often made when there is so much infection to close the schools, but I would only see that as a last resort and I have always felt that way."


Was COVID-19 a Lab Leak?

Doctor showing covid-19 tube test and sampling swab.

Dr. Fauci is making it clear that, in his opinion, the virus did not leak from a lab. "When you talk about research that was funded by the NIH, people made an inappropriate conflation of those experiments with SARS-CoV-2. Now having said that, do I keep an open mind, that in fact somewhere beyond anything that the NIH has done with funding competent Chinese scientists, could there have been a lab leak, as a possibility? The answer is of course. Apropos of what I said a moment ago, I always keep an open mind. But you've also got to look at what evolutionary virologists have been studying—and published in the peer-reviewed literature, something that will come out soon form a whole group of qualified people, still say that although you keep an open mind, the most likely evolution of SARS-CoV-2 is a natural jumping of species. Again—always keeping an open mind, but you've got to go with the data, and that's what I've always done." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.


Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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