Fauci says he’s ‘not against’ mask mandates, but doesn’t want to interfere with states
Anthony Fauci said Wednesday he wants everyone to wear a mask during the coronavirus pandemic but doesn’t think mandating it would be successful because it would be too difficult to enforce.
In an interview with Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said he understands people in different states have different opinions, and he doesn’t want to tell anyone how to govern.
“I’m not totally against mandating, but I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes,” Fauci said. “I mean I know that there’s some hesitancy on the part of some for mandating.”
Fauci, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, said he thinks the best option is for politicians and top officials to lead by example and that he trusts Americans to believe data showing universal facial coverings can help reduce coronavirus transmission.
“Some states and authorities feel that if you mandate, then you’re going to have to get into this situation of having to enforce it, and will that create more of an issue, and more of a distraction than just being very explicit in very, very strongly recommending,” he said.
“Hopefully you get the cooperation of the citizens in your community, to realize why that’s important not only to protect themselves, but also to protect those around them,” he added.
Fauci said he is “very pleased” that President Trump has recently begun to publicly recommend wearing masks, and has even been photographed wearing one, after spending months dismissing and mocking others who did so.
“I think right now you’re seeing the situation has changed,” Fauci said.
But only about half of all states have a mask mandate in place, and mask wearing is not universal. Some governors who have said they will not impose a mandate, such as Gov. Brian Kemp (R) in Georgia, are actively trying to prevent mayors and other local officials from doing so.
Trump this week also promoted a video by a group of doctors who were spreading disinformation about COVID-19, including that masks are not helpful.
On Wednesday, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a vocal mask skeptic, tested positive for COVID-19. He has been sporadically wearing a mask in recent days and speculated he might have actually contracted the virus by wearing a mask.
Fauci’s tone on facial coverings has softened in recent weeks.
In early July, he pushed for local governments to institute mandates in a Facebook Live press conference with Alabama Sen. Doug Jones (D).
“I’m strongly in favor of mandating things,” Fauci said at the time. “If you do that, I think it’ll be a giant step towards interfering with the spread in the community.”
On July 17, Fauci said during a U.S. Chamber of Commerce address that local leaders need to be “as forceful as possible” on masks.
“I would urge the leaders — the local political and other leaders — in states and cities and towns to be as forceful as possible in getting your citizenry to wear masks,” he said.