Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, suggested that the U.S. could soon see a loosening of indoor mask requirements and that recommendations should become more “liberal” as more Americans are vaccinated.
During an appearance on ABC’s This Week, Fauci said he agreed with former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who has said now is the time to loosen indoor mask mandates as more than one-third of U.S. adults is fully vaccinated against COVID.
“No I think so, I think you’re going to probably see that as we go along and as more people get vaccinated,” Fauci told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “The CDC will be, almost in real-time George, updating their recommendations and their guidelines. We do need to start being more liberal as we get more people vaccinated.”
“As you get more people vaccinated, the number of cases per day will absolutely go down. We’re averaging about 43,000 a day, we’ve got to get it much, much lower than that. When that gets lower, the risk of any infection indoor or outdoor diminishes dramatically,” Fauci added.
Fauci’s comments come after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shifted its guidance last month to allow fully vaccinated individuals to go maskless outdoors, aside from in crowded settings. However, the agency still recommends that fully vaccinated individuals should wear masks indoors around unvaccinated people from multiple households and in indoor public spaces such as movie theaters, malls, museums and restaurants.
“We’re at the point right now where we can start lifting these ordinances and allowing people to resume normal activity, certainly outdoors we shouldn’t be putting limits on gatherings anymore, we should be encouraging people to go outside,” Gottlieb said Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation. “In the states where prevalence is low, vaccination rates are high and we have good testing in place and we’re identifying infections, I think we can start lifting these restrictions indoors as well on a broad basis.”
Yet White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients during an appearance on CNN on Sunday did not go as far as Fauci and Gottlieb did in advocating for looser restrictions.
CNN’s Jack Tapper asked Zients about concerns among “journalists and some health experts” that “overly cautious” mask guidance could erode confidence in “a light at the end of the tunnel.”
“I think everyone is tired, and wearing a mask can be a pain but we’re getting there and the light at the end of the tunnel is brighter and brighter,” Zients said. “Let’s keep up our guard, let’s follow the CDC guidance. And the CDC guidance across time will allow vaccinated people more and more privileges to take off that mask.”
However, Gottlieb suggested last week that a loosening of CDC indoor mask mandates could help “preserve the credibility of public health officials” should mitigation strategies need to be re-introduced during potential future outbreaks.