Top coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted on Friday that health experts don’t exactly know how much wearing a mask reduces the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
During an interview with MarketWatch that was published Sunday, Fauci was asked if he knew “how less likely people are to transmit coronavirus if they’re wearing a mask.”
“We don’t know exactly”
“We don’t know exactly,” Fauci replied. “There have been a number of meta analyses. One published in The Lancet on June 1, 2020 said masks and respirators reduced the risk of infection by anywhere from 78 percent to 85 percent. Your guess is as good as any: 50 percent to 75 percent or 80 percent is probably correct.”
Fauci’s broad range indicates that the data behind the assertion that masks prevent infection is still unclear.
If anything, the scientific community seems to be divided on the issue. In May, the New England Journal of Medicine released a study, reporting, “We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection.”
That same study also implied that masks had a more psychological rather than physical benefits. The study’s authors continued, saying, “Masks are visible reminders of an otherwise invisible yet widely prevalent pathogen and may remind people of the importance of social distancing and other infection-control measures.”
Fauci’s admission comes as many are advocating for a national mask mandate to be enforced through fines or even jail time. Over 30 states have issued mask mandates, according to the AARP. Other states, including Georgia, Oklahoma, and Missouri, recommend masks but their governors oppose state-wide mandates.
President Donald Trump said in mid-July that he would not support a national mask mandate. “I’m a believer in masks,” he said. “I think masks are good. But I leave it up to the governors.”
Social distancing important
During the same interview, Fauci shared his own plans for avoiding infection.
“I am in a risk category,” he said. “I don’t like to admit it, but I’m 79 years old. I can’t think of a reason to go trans-Atlantic. Right now, I’m very sequestered. I’m on a coronavirus task force. I go to the White House almost every day.”
The key to preventing the spread of coronavirus is common-sense safety measures. Dr. Fauci understands that he is at risk and is choosing to keep himself away from compromising situations.
All Americans should be doing the same, avoiding tight spaces with a lot of people, and especially large crowds.