Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert, said in a new interview that some Americans do not have a full understanding of the latest guidelines put forth by the federal government relative to mask wearing and coronavirus vaccines. 

“I think people are misinterpreting, thinking that this is a removal of a mask mandate for everyone. It’s not,” Fauci told Axios on Wednesday. “It’s an assurance to those who are vaccinated that they can feel safe, be they outdoors or indoors.”

Fauci said it’s not people’s “fault” if they don’t understand the new guidance because, in many cases, people “either read them quickly, or listen and hear half of it.” 

Some members of the public are incorrectly under the assumption, Fauci said, “that we’re saying: ‘You don’t need the mask anymore.'”

“That’s not what the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] said,” he added. “They said: ‘If you are vaccinated, you can feel safe — that you will not get infected either outdoors or indoors.’ It did not explicitly say that unvaccinated people should abandon their masks.”

Last week, CDC officials announced fully vaccinated Americans, meaning individuals who are more than two weeks removed from their second shot or their single shot for Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, can go without masks both outdoors and indoors. People who are not vaccinated at all, or have only had the initial dose of a two-shot regimen, are still recommended to wear masks outside their homes. 

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in making the announcement. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment, when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”

Some critics have blasted CDC officials and President Biden’s administration, saying guidance on masks and reopening guidelines for local governments was rushed and unclear. 

“I think the play call was right, but they fumbled the ball at the one-yard line in terms of communicating this to the public,” former U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said earlier this week. “It was a little bit of whiplash for the American public in terms of them saying just a week before, keep your mask on and then all of sudden they’re saying now you can take them off.” 

Fauci separately told Axios it is likely all Americans who have been vaccinated will need a booster shot in the coming months in order to keep the coronavirus from mutating and spreading again. 

“I think we will almost certainly require a booster sometime within a year or so after getting the primary [shot], because the durability of protection against coronaviruses is generally not lifelong,” he said. 

Tags Anthony Fauci Anthony Fauci Face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic Face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States Jerome Adams Joe Biden Rochelle Walensky White House coronavirus task force

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