The Slatest

Fauci Says New Mask Guidelines for Vaccinated Americans Under “Active Consideration”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, responds to questions during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on July 20, 2021.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, responds to questions during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on July 20, 2021. J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/Getty Images

As COVID-19 cases continue to increase, guidelines on masks for vaccinated Americans could soon change. Recommending that those who are already vaccinated wear masks is “under active consideration,” Anthony Fauci said on Sunday, adding that he is taking part in those discussions. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said vaccinated people can forget about masks some local officials are choosing to require masks for everyone. And the two are “not incompatible,” Fauci said on CNN’s State of the Union, noting that the CDC gives “a lot of discretion to the locals.”

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Local officials in Los Angeles County and St Louis, Missouri, have recently reinstated indoor mask mandates and others are analyzing whether to follow suit. What is clear from the infection data is that the United States is “going in the wrong direction,” Fauci said, adding that he is “very frustrated” that the country finds itself in this “unnecessary predicament” of seeing rising cases at a time when, unlike most other places in the world, the United States has vaccines to spare.

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“If you look at the inflection of the curve of new cases and, as you said in the run-in to this interview, that it is among the unvaccinated. And since we have 50 percent of the country is not fully vaccinated, that’s a problem,” Fauci said. Now it has really become “a pandemic among the unvaccinated” and that’s why “we’re out there, practically pleading with the unvaccinated people to go out and get vaccinated.” Fauci went on to note it was particularly important for local leaders to push people to get vaccinated. “What I would really like to see is more and more of the leaders in those areas that are not vaccinating to get out and speak out and encourage people to get vaccinated,” Fauci said. He also said that a booster shot “might likely” happen and the priority would be the most vulnerable, including transplant and cancer patients.

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Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said on CBS’ Face the Nation that wearing masks could “still be helpful’ for vaccinated people in areas where there’s high transmission of the virus. “If you’re around vulnerable people, if you’re taking care of a newborn or an elderly patient and you’re vaccinated and if you don’t feel well, you should probably get yourself checked out and not assume you’re impervious to any kind of infection even if you’re vaccinated,” Gottlieb said. He also emphasized the quality of the masks is important. “If you can get your hands on a KN95 mask or an N95 mask, that’s going to afford you a lot more protection,” he said.

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