By Calvin Freiburger
White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said once more that public masking should resume in certain parts of the country and that the federal government’s response to COVID-19 in 2020 should have been “much, much more stringent.”
Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases (NIAID), made the comments Monday during an interview with The Hill.
“If I knew in 2020 what I know now, we would do a lot differently,” Fauci said. “The insidious nature of spread in the community would have been much more of an alarm, and there would have been much, much more stringent restrictions in the sense of very, very heavy encouragement of people to wear masks, physical distancing, what have you.”
“If you are in a zone or a county or a state or a city that has a very high dynamic of level of viral circulation, the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention] would recommend strongly that you wear a mask in a congregant indoor setting,” he added. “And that would include schools, places of work, anything that brings people together in a closed environment. That is good public health practice.”
Fauci did offer one very indirect allusion to the failure of the previous masking guidance: “But you’ve got to get a well-fitted mask that is of a high quality. And the two we know are high quality are N95 and KN95.”
In fact, evidence indicates that masking was largely ineffective at limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Among that evidence is the CDC’s September 2020 admission that masks cannot be counted on to keep out COVID when spending 15 minutes or longer within six feet of someone, and a May 2020 study published by CDC’s peer-reviewed journal Emerging Infectious Diseases that “did not find evidence that surgical-type face masks are effective in reducing laboratory-confirmed influenza transmission, either when worn by infected persons (source control) or by persons in the general community to reduce their susceptibility.”
Last May, another study found that, though mandates effectively increased mask use, that usage did not yield the expected benefits. “Mask mandates and use (were) not associated with lower SARS-CoV-2 spread among U.S. states” from March 2020 to March 2021. In fact, the researchers found the results to be a net negative, with masks increasing “dehydration … headaches and sweating and decreas[ing] cognitive precision,” and interfering with communication, as well as impairing social learning among children. The airline mask mandate applied to everyone age two and over, meaning children still in diapers were expected to mask during long flights.
As for social distancing, in March 2021 The New York Times reported that not only did the rule to stay six feet apart from people in public appear unwarranted, but that its scientific basis was so thin that “it’s almost like it was pulled out of thin air,” according to Virginia Tech viral transmission expert Linsey Marr. That same month, as the Biden administration was facing political pressure to relax COVID rules, Fauci himself declared that a three-feet rule was sufficient.
In February 2020, he said there was “absolutely no reason whatsoever to wear a mask” in the United States; by July, he was suggesting that Americans wear not only masks, but goggles and face shields, despite evidence indicating masks’ ineffectiveness. Critics also faulted Fauci for suggesting that handshaking should be abolished yet sexual activity with strangers remains alright if “you’re willing to take a risk,” championing COVID vaccine mandates, and being unwilling or unable to give a “firm answer” on why the vaccines are necessary for those with immunity from prior infection.
But the most serious apparent falsehood comes from his past role presiding over NIAID’s approval of a federal grant to EcoHealth Alliance for gain-of-function research, which entails intentionally strengthening viruses to better study their potential effects, at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, from which COVID may have originally leaked.
Fauci said last week he has no firm plans to retire, but does not expect to remain in his current post beyond the end of 2024, when President Joe Biden may be replaced with a Republican president.