National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Anthony Fauci said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “didn’t flip flop” by issuing new masking guidelines for schools and certain high transmission areas.
The reason for the change in guidance, he said in an MSNBC interview Tuesday, is due to the so-called “Delta” COVID-19 strain. Federal health officials said the Delta variant now comprises most of the new COVID-19 cases in the United States.
“Something has changed. And what has changed is the virus,” he said referring to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus that causes COVID-19.
“The CDC hasn’t changed, and the CDC hasn’t really flip-flopped at all. What’s happened is that when that earlier recommendation was made, we were dealing predominantly with the Alpha variant.”
When asked about why masks are needed for vaccinated individuals, Fauci said it’s because of the nature of the Delta strain.
“The data are clear … that when a person gets infected who has been vaccinated … and they get infected with the Delta variant, that the level of virus in their nasopharynx is about 1,000 times higher than with the Alpha variant,” he explained.
With the new masking guidance, President Joe Biden dismissed concerns Wednesday that their messaging would invite confusion and attacked unvaccinated people, alleging it is they who are the ones who are “sowing enormous confusion,” not the federal government.
“The more we learn about this virus and the delta variation, the more we have to be worried and concerned. And there’s only one thing we know for sure—if those other 100 million people got vaccinated, we’d be in a very different world,” Biden said.
The White House quickly changed its own masking guidance and asked all staff and reporters to wear masks indoors on Tuesday.
The federal health agency, throughout the pandemic, advised people to wear masks indoors and outdoors if they’re within 6 feet of each other. Then in May, as vaccination rates rose quickly, the CDC eased its guidelines on wearing masks and said face coverings are no longer needed for vaccinated individuals.
A number of Republican-led states pushed back against the CDC’s guidance updates.
In a roundtable meeting on Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis again said that mask-wearing for children “should not be mandated.”
“I know our legislature feels strongly about it, such that if you started to see a push from the feds or some of these local school districts,” he added, “I know they’re interested in coming in, even in a special session to be able to provide protections for parents and kids who just want to breathe freely and don’t want to be suffering under these masks during the school year.”
And former President Donald Trump issued a statement calling on the seemingly endless federal mandates to end.
“We won’t go back. We won’t mask our children. Joe Biden and his Administration learned nothing from the last year,” the president said in a statement Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.