WASHINGTON, D.C. – According to reports, in February 2020 Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that store-bought face masks were not effective against the COVID-19 pandemic and even told someone preparing to travel not to bother wearing one.
Over the course of the pandemic, Fauci has received criticism for his fluctuating position on the wearing of masks; while speaking to NBC in January, he even said that double-masking “just makes common sense.”
The Washington Post and BuzzFeed News recently obtained numerous emails belonging to Fauci via the Freedom of Information Act, containing previously-unknown information about the beginning of COVID-19.
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One email in particular stood out; on February 5, 2020, Fauci had replied to an inquiry sent by who is believed to be former health and human services secretary Sylvia Burwell under President Barack Obama, who was seeking advice concerning the wearing of face masks when traveling. In response, Fauci essentially told her not to bother wearing one.
“Masks are really for infected people to prevent them from spreading infection to people who are not infected rather than protecting uninfected people from acquiring infection,” he said. “The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through material. It might, however, provide some slight benefit in keep out gross droplets if someone coughs or sneezes on you.”
“I do not recommend that you wear a mask, particularly since you are going to a very low risk location,” Fauci added.
As time has gone by, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has evolved their stance on mask-wearing as more information about the pandemic has been discovered; most recently, the CDC stated that fully vaccinated people could go without masks in most indoor and outdoor situations, but Fauci has stated that this is “not a mandate to take your mask off.”