- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday that people will have to wear face masks to protect against the coronavirus until it’s no longer considered a threat, and that there’s “no guarantee” that will happen before late fall of this year.

During an appearance on Fox News, Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House coronavirus response team, was asked by host Bret Baier when people will be able to attend events like Sunday night’s Super Bowl without having to wear masks.

“That will really be dependent upon how we get the level of virus in the community down,” Dr. Fauci responded. “If we can get — and I have used this as an estimate, it’s not definitive — that if we can get 70 to 85 percent of the population vaccinated and get to what we would hope would be to a degree of herd immunity, which really is an umbrella or a veil of protection against the community where the level of virus is so low it’s not a threat at all, then at that point, you can start thinking in terms of not having to have a uniform wearing of masks.

“But we’re certainly not near there yet,” he added. “When do I think that would occur? You know, it’s very difficult to predict, Bret, but if everything falls into the right place and we get this under control, it is conceivable that you might be able to pull back a bit on some of the public health measures as we get into the late fall of this year. But there’s no guarantee of that. Because if we don’t get the overwhelming majority of the population vaccinated, there’s still going to be a considerable amount of virus in the community, and as long as that’s the case, Bret, people are going to have to wear masks.”

Dr. Fauci recently came out in favor of wearing two masks as a “common sense” mitigation effort, though he said there’s no data yet to suggest it better protects people against the coronavirus. In March, when the pandemic was just getting started in the U.S., the nation’s top infectious disease expert said face masks were unnecessary and could have “unintended consequences” that could make people sicker. He later admitted in June that the government actively discouraged people from buying masks because the supply of N95 and surgical masks at the time was so limited.

In December, Dr. Fauci admitted he had also been intentionally moving the goalposts on his recommendations regarding herd immunity based on what he thinks the American people are ready to hear.

“When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent,” Dr. Fauci told The New York Times on Dec. 24. “Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, ‘I can nudge this up a bit,’ so I went to 80, 85.”

• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at jchasmar@washingtontimes.com.

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