Former White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci on Saturday defended masking amid a rise in COVID cases across the country, saying he hopes people would listen to advice from health officials.
In an interview on CNN, Fauci said he is worried Americans won’t listen to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — even if masking becomes necessary again.
“I am concerned that people will not abide by recommendations,” he said. “I would hope that if we get to the point that the volume of cases is such and organizations like the CDC recommends — CDC does not mandate anything — recommends that people wear masks, I would hope that people abide by that recommendation and take into account the risks to themselves and their families.”
Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, testifies during the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing to examine stopping the spread of monkeypox, focusing on the Federal response, in Washington, Sept. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
A small number of companies have already started asking employees to wear masks again, raising concerns that national recommendations may be needed again soon.
Fauci, who served as the face of the COVID response in the U.S. under the Trump and Biden administrations, said a study from earlier this year which claims masking is ineffective was actually misleading.
“When you’re talking about the effect on the pandemic as a whole, the data is less strong,” Fauci, who retired from his senior health post last year, said. “But when you talk about an individual basis of someone protecting themselves… There’s no doubt that there’s many studies that show that there is an advantage [to masks].”
The study, from respected British database Cochrane, claims that masking “probably makes little or no difference.” It went viral in anti-mask and COVID-skeptic communities this spring, but has been called out as misleading by fact checkers.
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Cochrane also put out a statement saying the piece was “widely misinterpreted” in March.
COVID cases are on the rise again nationwide after a late summer surge hit cities like Houston especially hard. There was about a 19 percent increase in COVID hospitalizations and 18 percent increase in deaths in the last week, according to CDC data.
Despite the recent rise, the numbers are in line with rates of hospitalization seen this past February, which fell after a spike in the winter.