Dr. Fauci Says This Is What Made Him Finally Ditch His Mask Indoors
The infectious disease expert is now comfortable going maskless, even inside.
On May 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shifted its mask recommendations to say that—in nearly every scenario—fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks, indoors or outdoors. It hasn't even been a week since the announcement, but people across the country have already begun shedding their masks. That includes White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD. Although the infectious disease expert has been fully vaccinated for months, he revealed that he only became comfortable going without a mask indoors after the CDC's recent announcement, because he wanted to make sure people saw that his behavior was in line with the agency's recommendations.
In a May 18 appearance on Good Morning America, Fauci told host George Stephanopoulos how the updated mask guidance has changed his personal behavior around mask-wearing. "I obviously am careful because I'm a physician and a health care provider," Fauci said. "I am now much more comfortable in people seeing me indoors without a mask. I mean, before the CDC made the recommendation change, I didn't want to look like I was giving mixed signals."
But it's not just about appearances—it's also a question of safety. Fauci went on to note that "being a fully vaccinated person, the chances of my getting infected in an indoor setting is extremely low, and that's the reason why in indoor settings now I feel comfortable about not wearing a mask because I'm fully vaccinated."
The COVID adviser also stressed that the new guidance was heavily informed by research. Fauci pointed out that evidence shows the vaccines are highly effective at preventing illness, and that even if you were to get a breakthrough infection, the chances of transmitting it to another person are extremely low.
While all of this is unequivocally good news, Fauci said he understands why there's been some confusion surrounding the new guidance. "The problem, and the issue, is that we don't have any way of knowing who is vaccinated and who's not vaccinated, and I think that's where the confusion arises," he noted.
Fauci went on to describe the plight of business owners in deciding whether or not to have people wear masks at their place of business. "There are some establishments who are saying, 'Well, I'm going to have people coming into my establishment, my store or what have you, some are vaccinated some are not I'm not going to know the difference. Some might be infected and might actually have a risk of infecting someone else.'" Taking that uncertainty into consideration, Fauci feels it's perfectly reasonable for owners to want to maintain a mask mandate.
And of course, not all fully vaccinated people are comfortable removing their masks, which health experts have stressed is perfectly normal. During the White House COVID-19 Response Team's press briefing on May 13, Fauci said wearing or not wearing a mask is a personal choice for vaccinated people to make. "There are those people who don't want to take that bit of a risk, and there's nothing wrong with that, and they shouldn't be criticized," Fauci said.
Other officials at the briefing echoed this sentiment. "People have to make these decisions based on their own comfort," CDC director Rochelle Walensky said. Andy Slavitt, senior adviser for the White House COVID-19 Response Team, noted, "Habits are hard to break, so people may take time to adjust. That's fine. As a rule, we are anti-side-eyeing."