Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Tuesday suggested it is “inexplicable” that some Americans view mandatory mask-wearing as a violation of their freedom, according to a new report.
“When you tell people they need to mask in an indoor congregate setting when you’re in a zone that has a high dynamic of infection — that is looked upon by a lot of people, not everybody, as an encroachment on your freedom,” Fauci said during an event hosted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, Fox News reported.
“We’ve never had that before,” he added. “It’s almost inexplicable.”
Fauci went on to say the Covid-19 vaccination effort in the country is a “very difficult situation.”
“You have people who don’t want to get vaccinated for any of a variety of reasons, ranging from pure anti-vax to just because we’re telling them to get vaccinated,” Fauci said.
He noted that 67 percent of the population is vaccinated and just half of that group has received their booster shots.
“That means a third of the people in the country are vaccinated and properly boosted. How could that possibly be when you have a disease that’s killed one million Americans and you have a hesitancy to use a life-saving intervention which is a vaccine and a booster?” Fauci said. “It seems like — what world are we living in?”
Fauci’s comments come weeks after he said that if he could change anything about his response to the pandemic, he would have recommended that the government impose “much, much more stringent restrictions” during the spring of 2020.
During an appearance on Rising, Fauci told hosts Robby Soave and Batya Ungar-Sargon that if he “knew in 2020 what I know now, we would do a lot differently.”
“The insidious nature of spread in the community would have been much more of an alarm, and there would have been much, much more stringent restrictions in the sense of very, very heavy encouragement of people to wear masks, physical distancing, what have you,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fauci’s own public opinion about the importance of masking and the threat of the virus has shifted since the start of the pandemic.
He said in February 2020 that “whenever you have the threat of a transmissible infection, there are varying degrees from understandable to outlandish extrapolations of fear,” calling the risk to Americans “minuscule.”
He also suggested at the time that only those who were infected with Covid-19 should wear masks. “If you look at the masks that you buy in a drug store, the leakage around that doesn’t really do much to protect you,” he said.
Fauci said on Rising that Americans in high-transmission areas should wear a “well-fitted mask that is of high quality,” such as an N95 or KN95, in schools, places of worship, or other places where people gather in a closed environment.