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Dr. Fauci Starts Controversy With New Masks Comment

The infectious disease expert said we may be wearing masks into 2022.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek
Doctor Anthony Fauci wearing face mask.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been extolling the virtues of simple public health measures for nearly a year. In his latest interview, with CNN's State of the Union, he said we may have to follow one of them for another year at least: It's possible we could be wearing masks well into 2022. Read on for why he thinks that may be, and why there's controversy over him saying so—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus

Dr. Fauci Said We Could Be Wearing Masks Into 2022, Drawing Ire

So will we be wearing masks in 2022? "It depends on…the level of dynamics of virus that's in the community," answered Fauci. "If you see the level coming down really, really very low—I want it to keep going down to a baseline that's so low, that there's virtually no threat," or at least "a minimal threat that you will be exposed to someone who is infected. So if you combine getting most of the people in the country vaccinated with getting the level of virus in the community very, very low, then I believe you're going to be able to say, you know, for the most part, we don't necessarily have to wear a mask."

"But," he continued, "if we have a level of virus that is at that level, that it was months and months ago, like 20,000 per day," that "is a heck of a lot better than what it's been, but that's still a very high level of virus in the community. I want to see it go way down when it goes way down and the overwhelming majority of the people in the population are vaccinated, then I would feel comfortable in saying we need to pull back on the masks."

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Dr. Fauci's Comments Have Upset At Least One Expert

Reacting to Dr. Fauci's comment, Dr. Chad Savage, a healthcare policy advisor at the Heartland Institute, tells Local 12: "Is now the time to implement a more draconian measure, which is likely to exacerbate COVID fatigue, which we are seeing now?" He's concerned about people not following the instructions if they are frequently adapted. "If you now tell people, you know, go get the vaccine, the concept was that you can resume a normal life, but now we are saying no, no, no, if you get the vaccine, not only do you not resume normal life, but we are going to have you wearing even more masks, and be more restrictive, you are going to dissuade people from getting the vaccine, the thing that appears to be the most protective," said Dr. Savage.

It's not the first time Fauci and other experts have disagreed. When asked when we'd return to some form of "normality," Fauci has predicted the fall or winter. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, predicted it'd be far sooner. "There is reason to think the country is racing toward an extremely low level of infection. As more people have been infected, most of whom have mild or no symptoms, there are fewer Americans left to be infected," he wrote. "At the current trajectory, I expect Covid will be mostly gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal life." 

Fauci disagreed: "Yeah, I'm not so sure that this is herd immunity that we're talking about," said Dr. Fauci on Meet the Press of the cases dropping. "We had a big peak and it was starting to come down. Certainly the number of people that have been infected are contributing to that. Also some contribution with vaccines—not a lot. I don't think we vaccinated enough people yet to get herd immunity." 

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How to Stay Safe During This Pandemic

So follow Fauci's fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask that fits snugly and is double layered, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, 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.