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Fauci’s comments came during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. The White House chief health adviser said it is important to keep an “open mind” about masking after the CDC recently issued new guidance recommending that teachers, staff, and students wear face coverings indoors — even if they are vaccinated.
“It’s not comfortable, obviously, for children to wear masks, particularly the younger children,” Fauci said. “But you know, what we’re starting to see, Hugh, and I think it’s going to unfold even more as the weeks go by, that this virus not only is so extraordinarily transmissible, but we’re starting to see pediatric hospitals get more and more younger people and kids not only numerically, but what seems to be more severe disease.”
“Now we’re tracking that, the CDC is tracking that really very carefully, so it’s going to be a balance that we would feel very badly if we all of a sudden said OK, kids, don’t wear masks, then you find out retrospectively that this virus in a very, very strange and unusual way is really hitting kids really hard,” he added. “But hopefully, this will be a temporary thing, temporary enough that it doesn’t have any lasting negative impact on them.”
Hewitt noted that an editorial in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday — “The Case Against Masks for Children” — argued that long-term mask-wearing can cause physical and developmental issues in children and that there is little evidence to support a mandate.
“Facial expression are integral to human connection, particularly for younger children who are only learning how to signal fear, confusion and happiness,” Hewitt said. “Covering a child’s face mutes these nonverbal form of communications, can result in robotic and emotionless interaction. So, Dr., what did you base it on? Why?”
Fauci then claimed that data cited in the editorial “dates back to the alpha variant, not necessarily all the most recent data on delta.”
“Delta is different,” he said. “We’d better go back and make sure those data are really solid the same way you’re asking me, and I will. I’ll go back to the CDC and make sure that the data that they’re talking about is really solid. So let’s do both. Let’s just check both those things out and make sure we’re really talking about apples and apples and not apples and oranges, and make sure we’re talking about transmissibility of delta as we’re seeing what it’s doing right now.
“So I’ll just keep an open mind,” he added.
Mask orders and mandatory vaccines have been given renewed consideration as concern grows over the highly contagious delta variant. The new variant is spreading rapidly in areas with low vaccination rates.
After the CDC renewed calls for students to wear masks in schools, the Republican governors of Texas and Florida both signed orders prohibiting mask mandates in public schools.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis said that the “federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person, they must be forced to wear a mask all day, every day.”
“Many Florida schoolchildren have suffered under forced masking policies, and it is prudent to protect the ability of parents to make decisions regarding the wearing of masks by their children,” he said.
While children under the age of twelve are not currently eligible to be vaccinated, National Review has previously reported that unvaccinated children have a lower risk of death or serious outcome from COVID-19 than vaccinated people in their 30s do.