Story at a glance
- Fauci said the White House coronavirus task force was informed in meetings that there was a serious problem with the lack of PPE and masks for health providers who were on the front lines.
- He said once it was understood that the infection could be spread by asymptomatic carriers, “that made it very clear that we had to strongly recommend masks.”
- Studies have shown the use of face coverings can slow the spread of COVID-19 as it helps prevent coronavirus carriers who do not know they have the disease from spreading it to others.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said in an interview this week that he doesn’t regret any comments he made early on in the pandemic that may contradict his message now regarding widespread mask use to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
“I don’t regret anything I said then because in the context of the time in which I said it, it was correct,” Fauci told CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell in an interview for InStyle.
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Fauci said the White House coronavirus task force was informed in meetings that there was a serious problem with the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and masks for health providers who were on the front lines treating coronavirus patients. He said that led public health officials, including the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, to say “right now we really need to save the masks for the people who need them most.”
“When it became clear that the infection could be spread by asymptomatic carriers who don’t know they’re infected, that made it very clear that we had to strongly recommend masks,” Fauci told O’Donnell.
“And also, it soon became clear that we had enough protective equipment and that cloth masks and homemade masks were as good as masks that you would buy from surgical supply stores. So in the context of when we were not strongly recommending it, it was the correct thing. But our knowledge changed and our realization of the state of the outbreak changed,” he told the outlet.
Public health experts such as Fauci and Adams advised the public against wearing masks in late February and March as the outbreak began worsening in the U.S. and health workers experienced PPE shortages.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had recommended up until early April that health care workers and those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should wear masks, while healthy people should don masks only when taking care of someone who is ill. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the same at the time.
Now the CDC recommends the use of masks or cloth facial coverings in public when it is not possible to stay at least 6 feet away from others. Studies have shown the use of face coverings can slow the spread of COVID-19, as it helps prevent coronavirus carriers who do not know they have the disease from spreading it to others.
While there is no national mask mandate, a growing number of governors have issued mask requirements after experiencing spikes in the number of cases and hospitalizations.
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