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Fauci says his mask stance was 'taken out of context' by Trump

The country's top infectious disease doctor Anthony FauciAnthony FauciNew data suggest 'long COVID' symptoms last up to 9 months: Fauci The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan Overnight Health Care: COVID-19 vaccine makers pledge massive supply increase | Biden health nominee faces first Senate test | White House defends reopening of facility for migrant kids MORE said President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE's claims about his stance on the benefits of face masks were "taken out of context."

In an interview that will air Thursday on ABC News’s “Start Here” podcast, Fauci said public health officials did not recommend people wear masks early in the pandemic because there was a shortage of personal protective equipment for health professionals.

"So the feeling was that people who were wanting to have masks in the community, namely just people out in the street, might be hoarding masks and making the shortage of masks even greater. In that context, we said that we did not recommend masks," Fauci said.

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During a segment of Tuesday's presidential debate focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump suggested that his health officials have changed their minds, noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not always recommended the use of face coverings.

"Dr. [Anthony] Fauci said the opposite, he very strongly said masks aren't good and then he changed his mind, he said masks are good," Trump said.

During the "Start Here" interview, Fauci said scientists quickly changed their recommendation after realizing the extent to which asymptomatic spread was contributing to COVID-19 infections.

"At that point, which is now months and months ago, I have been on the airways, on the radio, on TV, begging people to wear masks. And I keep talking in the context of wear a mask, keep physical distance, avoid crowds, wash your hands and do things more outdoors versus indoors," Fauci said. 

Trump in the past has often questioned the effectiveness of masks, and has rarely worn one himself.

During Tuesday's debate in Cleveland, Trump said he wears a mask when needed, but added that everyone in the debate hall had already been tested for COVID-19 and was seated physically distanced from each other.

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He also mocked Biden for always wearing "the biggest mask I've ever seen." 

When CDC first officially recommended the use of face coverings on April 3, Trump said he would not wear one.

"I won't be doing it personally. It's a recommendation," he said at the time.