Fauci Defends March 2020 Recommendation Not to Wear Masks

Fauci Defends March 2020 Recommendation Not to Wear Masks
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a White House press briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington on Jan. 21, 2021. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

Dr. Anthony Fauci on April 11 defended his dismissal early last year of the idea of everyday Americans wearing masks to lower the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Fauci in March 2020 said on CBS' “60 Minutes” that people in the United States “should not be walking around wearing a mask,” after noting that many people in Asia were.

The director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, when confronted with the clip on April 11 during an appearance on MSNBC, said that the White House Coronavirus Task Force was told “that there was a clear shortage of masks, and if we went around recommending masks, the health care providers putting themselves in harm’s way every single day would not have enough.”

He also said that at the time, there was no evidence that masks outside of the setting of the hospital worked.

“Number three, we did not know that at least 50 percent of the infections were being spread asymptomatically. Namely, by people that had no symptoms. That’s why at that time we—I and others—made that statement,” he said.

“Fast forward a month or two after. A: It became clear there was no shortage of masks. In fact, cloth masks work. B: We started to see rather substantial data that masks outside of the setting of the hospital work, to prevent infection and to prevent you from infecting someone else. And three: We found out to our horror that 50 percent or more of the infections were transmitted by people who did not know they were infected.”

In early April 2020, Fauci and other health officials who had urged people not to wear masks began doing the opposite.

Fauci has been widely criticized for wide shifts in public health advice during the pandemic. In June of last year, he offered the first explanation—that officials were concerned that there wouldn’t be enough masks for health care workers if the general public was also wearing them—without saying there was a lack of evidence.

Fauci has also changed his messaging about the level required to reach herd immunity and other issues.

Also on April 11, Fauci claimed it’s “still not okay” for people fully vaccinated against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus to eat indoors at restaurants.

Even people who have gotten COVID-19 vaccines “still have to be careful and not get involved in crowded situations, particularly indoors where people are not wearing masks,” he said.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a physician among Fauci’s most vocal critics, said that Fauci “continues to ignore 100 years of vaccine science.”

“His only real theme is ‘Do what I say,’ even when it makes no sense,” Paul said in a tweet. “If you’ve recovered or been vaccinated - go about your life. Eat, drink, work, open the schools. Enough with the petty tyrants!”