Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that masks should still be worn by those who are vaccinated against COVID-19 as they serve as an important tool in preventing the spread of the virus and compliment the shots.
During an interview on ABC’s “This Week”, the White House coronavirus response team member said that he did not believe masks would be going away any time in the near future and urged individuals to continue wearing them regardless of their vaccination status.
Fauci’s comment comes just days before Christmas when millions of families across the United States are set to travel to meet one another and celebrate the festive day together.
More than 109 million people—an almost 34 percent increase from last year—are expected to travel 50 miles or more via road, plane, or other forms of transport between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2 to visit loved ones, according to a report by AAA Travel.
Fauci was asked if vaccinated individuals should feel comfortable doing so, to which he replied, “No, I do. If you are vaccinated and boosted and are prudent when you travel, when you are in an airport, to be wearing a mask all the time, you have to be wearing a mask on a plane.”
“Do not do things like go to gatherings where there are people who you do not know what their vaccination status is,” he said. “If you do that, and some people are even going the extra step or the extra mile, or maybe even getting tested when you have people coming over the house.
“We now have a much wider availability or point of care test that you can get a result in about 15 minutes. So you might want to do that,” Fauci continued, adding that if people were to take such precautions then they would be able to feel “quite comfortable with a family setting, dinners, and the gatherings that you have around the holiday season,” however he noted that “nothing is risk-free.”
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, then said that there are “other tools besides the vaccine, and wearing a mask complements the protection that you get from the vaccine and a boost.”
“So I don’t think you should be in a situation that if you are vaccinated, you don’t ever have to worry about wearing a mask. Vaccinated or unvaccinated under certain circumstances, masks work in diminishing the likelihood that you are going to get infected or that if you are infected and without symptoms, that you’re going to spread it to someone else. So it’s not an either-or. You can do both and should do both,” Fauci said.
Fauci’s comments come shortly after chief executives of some of America’s major airlines last week noted that an aircraft is “the safest place you can be” while questioning how useful wearing masks are during flights.
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly, and United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby made the comments during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on aviation issues, where they explained that the air quality on flights was far superior to that in many indoor spaces such as theatres, churches, and even hospitals, due to the planes’ high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.
Referring to the high number of airborne particles captured by HEPA filters, Southwest’s Kelly said, “I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment. It is very safe and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting.”
“I concur,” said Parker from American Airlines. “An aircraft is the safest place you can be. It’s true of all of our aircraft—they all have the same HEPA filters and airflow.”
However, Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, pointed out that not all planes are fitted with the same quality of air filters, and said she believed that masks should continue to be worn during flights as part of a “layered safety protocol.”