Dr. Anthony Fauci wants all Americans to wear a mask and — contrary to previous statements he’s made on the issue — he now favors a mask mandate in order to make that happen.
Fauci, a physician and immunologist, and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for the last three decades, told Erin Burnett on CNN’s OutFront Friday evening: “If people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating.”
“There’s going to be a difficulty enforcing it, but if everyone agrees that this is something that’s important, and they mandate it and everybody pulls together and says, you know, we’re going to mandate it but let’s just do it, I think that would be a great idea,” he said.
Anthony Fauci had previously stopped short of saying that the American people should be required to wear masks under a mandate.
Previously, Fauci has stopped short of saying that the American people should be required to wear masks under a mandate, but the recent spike in cases and surveys showing that people are still not wearing masks in public places appears to have shifted his stance on the issue.
As of Sunday, COVID-19 had infected nearly 42.8 million people worldwide, which mostly does not account for asymptomatic cases, and killed 1.1 million people. The U.S. still has the world’s highest number of cases and deaths (almost 8.6 million and 224,912 deaths), Johns Hopkins University reported.
The U.S. hit a new record of more than 83,718 new infections in a 24-hour period on Saturday, COVID-19 Dashboard published by Johns Hopkins. just 39 cases shy of Friday’s record high. Hospitalizations have also surged, hitting the Midwest and Mountain West particularly hard.
Speaking in Wilmington, Del. on Friday, Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden said, “First, I’ll go to every governor and urge them to mandate mask wearing in their states and, if they refuse, I’ll go to the mayors and county executives and get local mask requirements in place nationwide.”
The Trump administration has taken a mixed stance on masks. On Sunday, Twitter TWTR, +0.31% blocked a post by Dr. Scott Atlas, one of President Donald Trump’s top health advisers, after he claimed face masks were ineffective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
“Masks work? NO” Atlas tweeted Sunday, followed by a thread of posts that misrepresented scientific findings on masks, which have shown broad agreement that they help to stop the spread of the disease, and are also an essential part of personal protective equipment for frontline workers.
Some 85% of adults say they wear a mask most/all of the time, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
The comments by Atlas, a Stanford radiologist with no background in infectious diseases, contradicts guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and Fauci.
Last week, Fauci said that vulnerable people should also think about wearing a mask in the home if they’re around people who have had contact with others, and advised people to avoid crowds, congregating indoors and suggested frequent washing of hands.
“Whenever we public-health officials talk about implementing public-health measures people think that we want to shut the country down,” he said. “We don’t want to do that. What we want to do is use public-health measures in a prudent, careful way to help us to reopen the country.”
He also said that voting in person on Nov. 3 is just as safe as going to Starbucks, assuming other people wear masks. “I think it’s just as safe to go and get a cup of coffee in a Starbucks in which everyone’s wearing a mask and doing the things they should be doing.”
“You can’t enter into the cool months of the fall, and the cold months of the winter with a high community infection baseline,” he said. People will spend more time indoors, he added. “That’s when you have to be particularly careful about the spread of respiratory-born disease.”
Fauci is not the only public-health professional who is concerned about a “twindemic” of influenza and coronavirus during the winter months, making it more difficult to distinguish between symptoms caused by the respective viruses, and potentially overwhelming hospitals.
AstraZeneca AZN, +0.07% ; BioNTech SE BNTX, +2.69% and partner Pfizer PFE, +2.00% ; Johnson & Johnson JNJ, +0.11% ; Merck & Co. MERK, +3.94% ; Moderna MRNA, -0.43% ; Sanofi SAN, +2.97% and GlaxoSmithKline GSK, +0.57% are among those working on vaccines.
Some 93% of U.S. adults say they wear a mask sometimes, often or always, according to a HealthDay/Harris Poll survey conducted in October, versus 90% in August. In the same poll, 72% of adults said they always wear a mask compared to 62% in August.
However, more Democrats (82% in October versus 69% in August) than Republicans (66% versus 53% in August) said they wear a mask, although the percentages are rising with older people and women more likely to wear a mask than younger people and men.