The director of the National Institutes of Health said Sunday that federal guidance urging vaccinated people to wear masks indoors in communities of high COVID-19 spread is aimed at mostly protecting the unvaccinated and immunocompromised. “That has much more to do with transmission,” Fauci said of the new guidelines. “You want them to wear a mask, so that if in fact they do get infected, they don’t spread it to vulnerable people, perhaps in their own household, children or people with underlying conditions.” Dr. Francis Collins, head of the NIH, urged Americans to wear masks but stressed that they’re no substitute for getting vaccinated.
“From the standpoint of illness, hospitalization, suffering and death, the unvaccinated are much more vulnerable,” Fauci said. “The unvaccinated, by not being vaccinated, are allowing the propagation and the spread of the outbreak.” The U.S. reported more than 1.3 million new infections in July, more than triple the number from June. Fauci acknowledged that some breakthrough infections are occurring among the vaccinated. No vaccine is 100% effective, he noted. But he stressed the Biden administration’s recurring theme that vaccinated people who do become infected are far less likely to become seriously ill than unvaccinated people who become infected.
The CDC has brought back guidelines recommending masks for vaccinated individuals in areas of substantial spread of the virus. “We are looking, not I believe to lockdowns, but to some pain and suffering in the future,” Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“We have a lot of push from the CDC and others to make every single person, kids and (school) staff have to wear masks all day,” DeSantis said. “That would be a huge mistake.” The Biden administration’s new policy requiring federal workers to wear masks has drawn some blowback from unions, including those that encourage their rank and file to wear masks. Both governors say protection against the virus should be a matter of personal responsibility, not government intervention.
The return of some local mask mandates in schools and elsewhere is drawing resistance similar to what vaccine mandates have drawn. In Texas, where daily new infections have tripled in the last two weeks, Gov. Greg Abbott has prohibited local governments and state agencies from mandating vaccines or masks. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, despite experiencing record-breaking infection numbers in his state, also has imposed limits on local mask rules. The virus is “having a pretty big party in the middle of the country,” Collins said.
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