Dr. Fauci Had Doubts on a Mask Mandate. He's Reconsidering

Nation's top infectious disease expert says we may need to require masks as US sees record daily high
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 24, 2020 7:30 AM CDT
As US Cases Hit Record High, Fauci Talks Mask Mandate
Dr. Anthony Fauci is seen at a Capitol Hill meeting on the federal government response to COVID-19 on Sept. 23, 2020, in Washington.   (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP)

On Friday, the US reached what CNN calls a "harrowing milestone": the nation's highest daily count of new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, with 83,010 cases recorded, per the COVID Tracking Project. Forbes notes that the previous one-day record was 76,842, recorded on July 17. And as we transition into the cooler fall and winter months, that number is likely to worsen. "We easily will hit six-figure numbers in terms of the number of [daily] cases," Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, tells CNN. Health officials say the surge has come after schools and colleges welcomed students back, and that a main driver are small gatherings, like family events, in an increasingly indoor environment. This uptick has one big name in public health concerned, and rethinking past thoughts on mandatory face masks.

Although he's said in the past a mask mandate "probably would not work," as it would be difficult to enforce, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN Friday night that it may be time to consider one. "[If] people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating it," he said. "There's going to be a difficulty enforcing it, but if everyone agrees that this is something that's important and ... everybody pulls together ... I think that would be a great idea." He added that one of the reasons we're seeing a current surge in cases is that Americans aren't uniformly wearing masks and social distancing, which will likely become an issue as we head into the winter. Axios notes President Trump often downplays and mocks the wearing of masks, while Democratic rival Joe Biden has said he thinks a national mask mandate might be the way to go, if necessary. (More coronavirus stories.)

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