Dr. Anthony S. Fauci mentioned on Sunday that he was open to stress-free indoor masking guidelines as extra People get vaccinated in opposition to the virus, simply two days after the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention belatedly emphasised the hazard of airborne transmission.
Dr. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser for the pandemic, mentioned that as vaccinations climb, “we do want to start out being extra liberal” when it comes to guidelines for carrying masks indoors, although he famous that the nation was nonetheless averaging about 43,000 instances of the virus day by day. “We’ve acquired to get it a lot, a lot decrease than that,” he mentioned.
On Friday, the C.D.C. up to date its steering about how the coronavirus spreads, stating explicitly that folks can inhale airborne virus even when they’re greater than six ft away from an contaminated particular person. Beforehand, the company had mentioned that the majority infections have been acquired by way of “shut contact, not airborne transmission.”
The replace introduced the company according to proof of the hazard from airborne droplets that epidemiologists had famous because the pandemic unfolded final yr, and, in response to some consultants, additionally underscored the urgency for the federal Occupational Security and Well being Administration to situation requirements for employers to handle potential airborne hazards within the office.
Dr. Fauci’s feedback on Sunday got here in response to a query about feedback that Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the previous head of the Meals and Drug Administration, made final week on CNBC. He said that relaxing indoor mask mandates now — “especially in environments where you know you have a high level of vaccination”— would give public health officials “the credibility to implement them” again in the fall or winter if cases surge again.
Dr. Fauci, asked by George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s Sunday program “This Week” whether he agreed, said: “I think so, and I think you’re going to probably be seeing that as we go along, and as more people get vaccinated.”
“The C.D.C. will be, almost in real time, George, updating their recommendations and their guidelines,” Dr. Fauci continued. “But yes, we do need to start being more liberal as we get more people vaccinated.”
Over a third of the U.S. population — more than 112 million people — is fully vaccinated and another 40 million people have received the first dose of a two-dose protocol.
The C.D.C., which issues national guidance on masking, says that even vaccinated people should continue to wear masks in indoor public spaces, including restaurants when they are not actively eating and drinking. In many places across the country, it is clear that the guidance is not being followed.
In a separate interview on Sunday, on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Jeffrey Zients, Mr. Biden’s Covid response coordinator, was somewhat more circumspect than Dr. Fauci when asked about Dr. Gottlieb’s comments.
“I think everyone is tired, and wearing a mask is — it can be a pain,” Mr. Zients said. “But we’re getting there. And the light at the end of the tunnel is brighter and brighter. Let’s keep up our guard. Let’s follow the C.D.C. guidance. And the C.D.C. guidance across time will allow vaccinated people more and more privileges to take off that mask.”
Mr. Zients also suggested that instead of reaching herd immunity — the point when enough people are immune to the virus that it can no longer spread through the population — the goal should be to achieve some sense of normalcy by getting 70 percent of Americans immunized. President Biden has called for 70 percent to have at least one dose by July 4.
Reaching 70 percent will create “a pattern of decreasing cases, hospitalizations and deaths and take us down to a sustainable low level,” Mr. Zients said, pointing to Israel, a world leader in vaccinations, as a model.
In that country, vaccinations have reached almost 60 percent of the population since they began on Dec. 19 last year, and the seven-day average of new cases has dropped from a high of more than 8,600 on Jan. 17 to fewer than 60 as of Saturday.