Dr. Fauci Just Said You Won't Have to Wear a Mask When You Do This Soon
"We do need to start being more liberal as we get more people vaccinated."
It's been less than two weeks since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed their guidance on masks for fully vaccinated versus unvaccinated people. And while things certainly loosened up in terms of wearing a face covering outdoors, the CDC says in most public setting, everyone—fully vaccinated or not—still needs a mask indoors. During a May 9 appearance on ABC's This Week, George Stephanopoulos asked Anthony Fauci, MD, the White House's chief COVID adviser, whether or not "it's time to start relaxing the indoor mask mandates," and his answer may surprise you. Read on to find out what Fauci said.
Fauci said he thinks indoor mask mandates will soon be relaxed.
"I think so," Fauci said when Stephanopoulos asked point-blank if it's time to start lifting indoor mask mandates.
"You're going to probably be seeing that as we go along and as more people get vaccinated," Fauci said. "The CDC will be, you know, almost in real time, George, updating their recommendations and their guidelines."
The key is getting more people vaccinated.
Right now, more than 40 percent of people over 18 in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, which is far from the 70 percent Fauci set as the goal for herd immunity months ago. Still, he said, "We do need to start being more liberal as we get more people vaccinated."
"As you get more people vaccinated, the number of cases per day will absolutely go down," he explained. "We're averaging about 43,000 a day. We've got to get it much, much lower than that. When that gets lower, the risk of any infection indoor or outdoor diminishes dramatically."
Other experts have recently made a strong push to loosen indoor mask mandates.
Scott Gottlieb, MD, former commissioner of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) from 2017 to 2019, said on CNBC on May 6 that the CDC should consider relaxing indoor mask guidelines now that COVID case numbers are low and vaccination rates are high.
"I think we should start lifting these restrictions as aggressively as we put them in," Gottlieb told CNBC's Shepard Smith. "The only way to earn public credibility is to demonstrate that you're willing to relax these provisions when a situation improves. … We need to preserve the credibility of public health officials to perhaps reimplement some of these provisions as we get into next winter, if we do start seeing outbreaks again."
Similarly, Leana Wen, MD, a public health professor at George Washington University and Baltimore's former health commissioner, wrote a Washington Post op-ed at the end of April, urging the White House to show faith in the effectiveness of the vaccine by not wearing masks in uncrowded settings indoors. "Over-correction has a price; at best, it makes public health measures seem performative rather than science-based," Wen wrote. "At worst, it calls vaccine efficacy into question."
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Currently, fully vaccinated people are advised to wear masks anywhere they aren't sure everyone else is vaccinated.
As an increasing number of people in the U.S. have been vaccinated, the CDC changed its guidelines in April for those who are two weeks out from getting their last shot. Fully vaccinated people can "gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart" and can also "gather indoors with unvaccinated people of any age from one other household," the CDC's guidelines current state.
However, the agency adds, "You should still protect yourself and others in many situations by wearing a mask that fits snugly against the sides of your face and doesn't have gaps." Specifically, the CDC says fully vaccinated people should "take this precaution whenever [they] are in indoor public settings."