Dr Anthony Fauci admitted on Tuesday that he knew he was at ‘extremely low’ risk of contracting COVID-19 indoors after getting vaccinated, but kept wearing a mask any way.
‘I didn’t want to look like I was giving mixed signals, but being a fully vaccinated person, the chances of my getting infected in an indoor setting is extremely low,’ Dr Fauci said during a Good Morning America interview.
Dr Fauci has been criticized for continuing to wear a mask – sometimes two masks – indoors after being fully vaccinated. Conservative analyst Candace Owens accused the nation’s top infectious disease doctor of ‘making this stuff up as he goes along,’ in a Monday Tucker Carlson Tonight interview.
‘Dr Fauci is to me, you know when your kid and you play that game Simon Says? You always wondered who was Simon and why are we doing what he says? Simon is Dr Fauci, he’s making this stuff up as he goes along. Simon says where your mask. Simon says don’t wear your mask,’ she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) own real-world data has shown that fully vaccinated people face about 94 percent lower risk of getting symptomatic COVID-19 compared to unvaccinated people indoors (although the research was based on health care workers, who still wear masks at work).
Last week, the CDC updated its guidance to say that Americans who are fully vaccinated can safely go maskless indoors, or outdoors, with the exception of crowded indoor settings like planes.
The change was long-awaited, and many U.S. leaders said it was overdue.
Dozens of states have lifted or updated their mask mandates to reflect the new guidance – including New York, where vaccinated people can go maskless starting tomorrow – but confusion has abounded, and some, like California, are keeping their requirements or the time being.
There’s no way to tell who has and hasn’t been vaccinated without asking for proof, which businesses can do, but proves logistically challenging (and raises potential issues of discrimination).
Public health officials including Dr Fauci and CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky have encouraged Americans to continue to ‘model’ masking, especially for children younger than 12 who are not eligible for vaccination and won’t be for months.
Until now, Dr Fauci has insisted that there was still uncertainty over how well vaccines work to prevent illness and especially for blocking transmission.
But now, he says he continued to wear as a matter of messaging, despite the ‘extremely low risk that he would be infected or spread coronavirus.
Dr Anthony Fauci said in a Tuesday GMA interview (left) he had kept wearing a mask indoors after being fully vaccinated in order to avoid sending ‘mixed messages’ despite knowing his risk of infection was ‘extremely low.’ Dr Fauci has been criticized for continuing to wear a mask – or two – (right) in settings the CDC has said it’s safe for vaccinated people like him to go maskless in
The risk of coronavirus infection after getting fully vaccinated has appeared low ever since the shots were in clinical trials.
Clinical trials of Moderna’s vaccine found it to lower the risk of getting symptomatic COVID-19 by 94 percent. Pfizer’s reduced the risk by 95 percent in its trials.
The real-world data that the CDC said it leaned heavily upon to make its recommendation that fully vaccinated Americans matched up almost exactly with the findings of the clinical trials.
So why didn’t public health figures like Dr Fauci admit masks were no longer necessary and shed their own earlier, when it appeared being vaccinated gave them plenty of protection?
Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky slammed Dr Fauci for ‘theater’ of continuing to tell Americans to wear masks after vaccination in March, before the changed its guidance.
In a sense, it was, according to Dr Fauci’s statement that he was trying to avoid the appearance of sending ‘mixed signals.’
When asked by GMA’s George Stephanopoulos how his own mask wearing practice had changed, Dr Fauci said: ‘I’m obviously careful because I’m a physician and health care provider. I am now much more comfortable with people seeing me indoors without a mask. Before the CDC made the recommendation change, I didn’t want to look like I was giving mixed signals.’
And vaccines offered Dr Fauci and people who were vaccinated months ago the protection then that makes Dr Fauci comfortable with taking off his mask indoors now.
The difference is time, over which more data has accumulated.
In March, scientists were relying on data from trials of some 40,000 people each to make their recommendations about mask-wearing, and those trials weren’t designed to test whether vaccines prevented infection – just symptomatic illness.
Since the rollout began in January, scientists have been collecting a growing body of data to tell them just how well the shots work to prevent both illness and infection.
And now there is robust evidence that the shots work, exceedingly well – and well enough that someone who is fully vaccinated is very unlikely to get infected with COVID-19 even without a mask.
But, in short, we simply know more now, with greater certainty, than we did in March.
‘The science that evolved over the last few weeks that prompted the CDC to make the recommendation that people who were vaccinated should feel safe and be able to go indoors and outdoors without a mask relates to the evidence of how effective these vaccines are, not only in protecting you against infection, but even if you have a breakthrough infection, the chances of you transmitting it to someone else is extremely low, very very low,’ Dr Fauci told GMA.
One-to-one comparisons of unvaccinated people and vaccinated people show much lower rates of infection among those who have had the shots.
And now that 60 percent of American adults have had at least one dose of vaccine and nearly half of over-18s are fully vaccinated, Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths are plummeting.
On Monday, 15 states reported zero COVID-19 deaths. Sunday was the first day since Texas began counting Covid fatalities last March that the state saw no new deaths.
And for the first time in the pandemic, cases are declining in every single state.
The end of the pandemic seems to be ‘in sight,’ as Dr Walensky said last week, and it has many Americans ready to ditch their masks for good.
More and more states are dropping their mask mandates for fully vaccinated Americans in the wake of U.S. health official guidance deeming it safe for people who have had the shots to be indoors or outdoors without covering their faces.
‘The problem and the issue is we don’t have any way of knowing who is vaccinated and who isn’t vaccinated and I think that’s where the confusion arises,’ explained Dr Fauci.
‘Because we have some establishments saying, “well, I’m going to have some people coming into my store or my establishment or what have you, some are gonna be vaccinated some are not, I’m not going to know the difference, some might be infected, and might actually have a risk of infecting someone else.”
‘And under those circumstances, it’s perfectly reasonable and understandable for the owner of that establishment to say, “you know, we’re going to keep the mask mandate up, and I think that’s what we’re seeing and that’s causing the confusion because some are maintaining a mask mandate and others are not.”‘
Some national establishments, like Starbucks, have lifted their mask requirements, but only in states that have also relaxed masking mandates for fully vaccinated people.
Dr Fauci also noted that the CDC still advises children who are not vaccinated to wear masks indoors. Dr Walensky has encouraged teachers and parents to continue to wear masks around kids, even if they themselves are vaccinated, in order to ‘model’ good behavior for children.
Since vaccine eligibility was expanded to children ages 12 to 15, about 600,000 in that age group have gotten shots, but Dr Fauci pointed out that kids younger than 12 won’t be eligible for several months, and will need to keep wearing masks
Overall, nearly 60% of U.S. adults have had at least a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, but rates lag in rural areas. As of April 10, 46% of urban adults had had a first shot, compared to 39% of rural adults, new CDC data reveal
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 48 percent of Americans – including 60 percent of adults 18 or older – have had at least a first shot and 37 percent are fully vaccinated (including 47.4 percent of adults).
But only 3.1 million children under 18 have had their first dose, and ‘we’re not going to have kids at that age [younger than 12] vaccinated for at least several months as we get toward the end of this year and the beginning of next year,’ said Dr Fauci in a Tuesday Good Morning America interview.
Children aged 12 to 15 became eligible for vaccination last week, but younger kids are not yet eligible to get the shots, and likely won’t be until fall at the earliest.
Their risks of getting sick if they do get COVID-19 are low, and the risk they will die of the infection is miniscule, but kids can transmit the virus, a concern for health officials.
And while the nationwide vaccination rate is promising and already driving down COVID-19 infections and deaths, the U.S. is a massive and patchwork nation, with widely varying vaccine uptake.
As of April 10, for example, 15 percent fewer rural Americans had been vaccinated, compared to urbanites, new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data released Tuesday reveal.
Vaccination rates have undoubtedly risen in both urban and rural parts of America, but it’s unlikely the gap has closed.