The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said on The Hill’s “Rising” show that there should have been “more stringent restrictions” for asymptomatic COVID cases in 2020.
On Monday, Fauci discussed the approach to the BA.5 subvariant of COVID-19. The conversation began talking about the past approaches to COVID and what Fauci would have changed had the opportunity been present.
“If I knew in 2020, what I know now, we would do a lot differently because back then we were not sure of a number of things,” Fauci said.
Fauci claimed that there should have been further restrictions and masking in order to counter the disease.
“We know now, two and a half years later, that anywhere from 50 to 60 percent of the transmission occur from someone without symptoms, either someone who never will get symptoms or someone who is in the pre-symptomatic stage,” Fauci said.
“Had we known that then, the insidious nature of spread in the community would have been much more of an alarm and there would have been much, much more stringent restrictions in the sense of very, very heavy, encouraging people to wear masks, physical distancing or what have you,” he continued.
He also insisted that data shows that masks are effective in preventing the transmission of COVID-19.
“I think the masking situation is one that is really critical that would have been done differently. First of all, we did not fully appreciate that a well-fitted K95 or NK95 mask is much, much better than a cloth mask and to wear a good mask, the data now are very clear that masks are very good at preventing both the acquisition of and transmission of infection,” Fauci said.
However, in May of last year, Fauci was quick to defend the CDC’s decision to discard the masks, claiming instead that vaccines were effective in stopping the spread.
“The underlying reason for the CDC doing this was just based on the evolution of the science,” Fauci said during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “But if in fact this serves as an incentive for people to get vaccinated, all the better. I hope it does, actually.”
He continued, “So even though there are breakthrough infections with vaccinated people, almost always the people are asymptomatic and the level of virus is so low it makes it extremely unlikely — not impossible — but very, very low likelihood that they’re going to transmit it,” Fauci said.
And then, just two weeks ago, Fauci finally conceded that vaccines were not effective in stopping infections.
“One of the things that’s clear from the data [is] that … vaccines—because of the high degree of transmissibility of this virus—don’t protect overly well, as it were, against infection,” he said.
He argued that current efforts to bring back mask mandates could be effective depending on the region, though he insisted that he and the CDC do not mandate mask wearing themselves.
“The CDC does not mandate anything. What they do is that they make recommendations because at the local level you may have a very different situation in one region of the country or one county or one city or one state very different from another region, city or state. And that’s the reason why the CDC serves as an analysis of the on the ground situation and a recommendation. Whether something becomes a requirement is something that’s decided at the local level,” Fauci claimed.
He also claimed that he “didn’t recommend locking anything down” and argued that criticism against him and the CDC was “not fair” in the greater context, continuing to defend the decisions he made in the peak of the pandemic.
“Because if you have a stable, static target, then you can start talking about what your approach, what your recommendation was, was it right or wrong. But when that target continues to change with new variants that elude protection both from prior infection as well as from vaccination, then you’ve got to move along and be flexible and open-minded enough to deal with what you’re dealing with in the real world. It’s a very elusive target,” he said.
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