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Here’s What Dr. Fauci Actually Said About Wearing Face Masks Indoors

Refinery29 logo Refinery29 5/10/2021 Elizabeth Gulino
Anthony S. Fauci wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Refinery29

At the end of last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new face mask guidelines that gave people more opportunities to ditch the covering — news that caused many to rejoice (and some to feel a little apprehensive). And yesterday, Anthony Fauci, MD, the Chief Medical Advisor to the President, mentioned that it may be time for officials to start thinking about changing indoor mask wearing guidelines, too.

During an interview Dr. Fauci gave on Sunday to ABC News, he was asked if he agreed with others who said that it was time to relax the indoor mask rules. He replied, “I think so, and I think you’re going to probably be seeing that as we go along, and as more people get vaccinated… The CDC will be, you know, almost in real time… updating their recommendations and their guidelines.”

For now, though, nothing has changed: The CDC’s guidelines still say that fully vaccinated people should wear masks in indoor public settings. While Dr. Fauci said he agreed that these rules should be relaxed in the future, he also emphasized that continuing to prioritize getting vaccines into arms was key. “As you get more people vaccinated, the number of cases per day will absolutely go down. We’re averaging about 43,000 a day. We’ve got to get it much, much lower than that. When that gets lower, the risk of any infection indoor or outdoor diminishes dramatically,” he said to ABC News.


Video: Dr. Fauci Suggests Indoor Mask Mandates May Soon Change (Veuer)

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Currently, more than 152 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and over 114 million people have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. That means around 58% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, a number that President Joe Biden hopes to increase to 70% by July 4.

Even after guidelines begin to relax, we may never be saying a full goodbye to face masks. In a different interview with NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Dr. Fauci noted that it’s likely that people who have grown used to wearing face masks will continue to do so — if not all the time, then at least seasonally, like during peak cold and flu season to prevent the spread of common illnesses.

We know that masks are part of an effective strategy when it comes to fighting infectious diseases. Flu cases have dropped dramatically this year: There were fewer than 2,000 flu cases confirmed in the U.S. while last year, there were around 38 million flu cases. Flu deaths have dropped, too. One child is reported to have died from the flu in the most recent flu season, compared to 195 deaths during the 2019 to 2020 season. “We’ve had practically a nonexistent flu season this year merely because people were doing the kinds of public health things that were directed predominantly against COVID-19,” Dr. Fauci said to NBC.

But even those who may opt to wear a mask in the future during cold and flu season are likely looking forward to a loosening of the current face mask guidelines, since that would mean that COVID-19 cases were decreasing and the pandemic was, hopefully, reaching an end. While Dr. Fauci’s words gave us something to look forward to, for now, we must continue to wear masks when we’re around people from outside our household, especially when we’re indoors.

And if you haven’t already, get vaccinated. As Dr. Fauci reminded us, as the number of fully vaccinated Americans goes up, the less likely we’ll see a surge in COVID-19 cases in the upcoming fall and winter, which will then lead us closer to normalcy, Dr. Fauci says. His hope? We’ll be back to normal one year from now. “I hope that next Mother’s Day, we’re going to see a dramatic difference than what we’re seeing right now. I believe that we will be about as close to back to normal as we can,” he told ABC, adding, “We’ve got to make sure that we get the overwhelming proportion of the population vaccinated.”

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