Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday that he would not support lifting mask mandates until the threat infection hazard posed by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus is “so low it’s not a threat at all,” adding that it’s possible this could come in late fall.
Fauci was responding to a question by Fox News’ Brett Baier, who asked about the dynamics of the outbreak and, specifically, when Americans might expect to be able to attend sporting events, theaters, or concerts without a mask.
“That will really be dependent upon how we get the level of the virus in the community down,” Fauci replied. “If we can get—and I have used this as an estimate, it is not definitive—if we can get 70 to 85 percent of the population vaccinated, and get to what we would hope would be to a degree of herd immunity which really is an umbrella or a veil of protection … where the level of virus is so low it’s not a threat at all, then at that point, you can start thinking in terms of not having to have a uniform wearing of masks.”
Fauci added that, while “we’re certainly not near there yet,” he suggested that “if everything falls into the right place and we get this under control, it is conceivable that you might be able to pull back a bit on some of the public health measures as we get into the late fall of this year. But there’s no guarantee of that.”
His remarks come as the number of new daily COVID-19 infections fell below 100,000 for the first time this year, according to figures published Feb. 7 by Johns Hopkins University. Newly reported infections dropped to 89,581 from 104,015 on Feb. 6, according to the tally.
The number of daily deaths due to the CCP virus have also fallen sharply in recent days, to 1,276 on Feb. 7, the lowest figure this year, from a historic peak of 5,085 on Feb. 4.
Some officials expressed concern about the threat of a new spike in infections due to people congregating on Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 7), as past surges have been reportedly linked to mass gatherings during holidays and other events.
“I’m worried about Super Bowl Sunday, quite honestly. People gather, they watch games together. We’ve seen outbreaks already from football parties,” said Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “So I really do think that we need to watch this and be careful.”
At a Feb. 8 White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing, Walensky was asked to comment about some states relaxing their COVID-19 protocols, with Iowa singled out as an example of a state that had reversed some requirements in terms of social distancing and mask-wearing.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds last week announced a lifting of the state’s limited mask-wearing requirements, noting also that social distancing will no longer be mandated in bars, restaurants, fitness centers, and other establishments, as well as at social gatherings and sporting events.
Walensky replied by saying that the number of new daily infections is still near 100,000 per day, and so, “I would discourage any such activity.”
“We are still in the first hundred days,” she said, noting President Joe Biden’s goal of getting all Americans to mask up for the first hundred days of his administration.
“I think we have yet to control this pandemic. We still have this emerging threat of variants, and I would just simply discourage any of those activities. We really need to keep all of the mitigation measures at play here, if we’re really going to get control of this pandemic,” she said.
Maintaining public health measures is a key factor in letting schools reopen safely as soon as possible, she said.
“If we want to get our schools open and our schools open safely… the best way to do that is to decrease the community spread. So I would say we need to keep up our social distancing and our masking and all of our other mitigation measures,” Walensky said, adding that the CDC would be issuing new guidance on school reopening in the coming days.