Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday that the return of local mask mandates due to the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 is “quite understandable,” but stopped short of saying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s should reverse current guidance regarding mask-wearing for vaccinated people.
“The general CDC guidelines still hold, that you do not need to wear a mask indoors if, in fact, you’ve been vaccinated,” the White House chief medical adviser told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto.
“But what’s very clear is that at the local level, in the trenches as it were,” Fauci went on, “you’re seeing individual situations where the level of infection is so high and the level in the community of vaccination might be low … And I think we’re seeing and will see more and more of that because we certainly are seeing a surge in cases with the delta variant, which is now dominating in this country … So it’s quite understandable why local authorities are now saying, ‘Good that you’re vaccinated, but in a situation where you have people indoors, particularly crowded, you should wear a mask.’”
On Monday, St. Louis will become the latest major metropolitan area to require masks in some places regardless of vaccination status. The St. Louis mandate applies to city and county residents aged five and up and requires face coverings to be worn on public transit and in indoor public settings, like move theaters and concert venues.
Los Angeles and Las Vegas instituted similar mandates earlier this month, while officials in Philadelphia said this week that they “strongly recommend” people wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
The return of mandates has led to some pushback, with Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva saying his deputies would not enforce the county’s requirement. In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio has declined to reintroduce an indoor mask mandate, saying it would distract from the city’s vaccination push.
De Blasio’s criticism has been echoed by others who say that unvaccinated Americans would be less likely to get the shot if they are forced to keep wearing masks and adopt other precautions from the height of the pandemic.
“I don’t think that that’s really necessarily the case, because getting vaccinated is not just so that you don’t have to wear a mask,” Fauci said Friday.
“Getting vaccinated is to protect your health, that of your family and that of the community, and when I say the community, it means by not allowing the spread of infection or allowing yourself, maybe inadvertently and innocently, to be a vector or a carrier to the virus to someone else.”
The head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases added that “99.5 percent” of current COVID-19 deaths are unvaccinated patients.
“So getting vaccinated is not just about whether you have to wear a mask or not wear a mask,” Fauci repeated. “It has to do with something much more serious than that, and that is keeping you healthy enough that you don’t wind up in the hospital and you don’t wind up dead. Because if you look at the statistics, they are very compelling.”
According to the CDC, 162.4 million Americans are considered fully vaccinated against COVID, a little more than 57 percent of the eligible population.