Dr. Anthony Fauci said the newly updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for fully vaccinated people has helped him feel more comfortable being seen without a mask while indoors, and that prior to it he “didn’t want to look like I was giving mixed signals.” His comments come as the agency takes heat for the timing of its mask update, with some questioning if it was politically motivated.
Fauci, and the agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, have repeatedly stated that the update was based on science.
“I am now much more comfortable in people seeing me indoors without a mask, before the CDC made the recommendation change, I didn’t want to look like I was giving mixed signals,” Fauci said Tuesday on Good Morning America, as to why he continued to wear a mask indoors before the update. “But being a fully vaccinated person, the chances of my getting infected in an indoor setting is extremely low and that’s the reason why in indoor settings now I feel comfortable about not wearing a mask because I’m fully vaccinated.”
President Biden’s administration on Monday attempted to ease confusion about mask mandates, saying that the decision to mask up while fully vaccinated despite new guidelines is a personal choice. Governors have also expressed surprise at the agency’s abrupt change in guidance, with New Hampshire’s Christopher Sununu saying he learned of it through the press.
Dr. Jerome Adams, the former U.S surgeon general under President Trump, said that the agency “made the right play call, but they fumbled the ball at the 1-yard line.” He called the agency’s messaging “abysmal.”
Several states were reluctant to immediately adopt the new guidelines, with Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, California, Hawaii and Washington D.C. among the initial holdouts. The majority have since announced that they will drop mask mandates for fully vaccinated people in the coming days or weeks to align with the guidance, while Hawaii, New Jersey and D.C. are keeping theirs in place.
In a White House COVID response briefing held Tuesday, Walensky lauded declining case rates, hospitalizations and deaths while stating that the past week “has been a big week, with progress and milestones that set us on a path out of the pandemic.”