Fauci Says Confusion Over CDC Mask Guidance Must Be Cleared Up

U.S. health leaders’ move to relax nationwide rules on masks for fully vaccinated people has spurred “understandable confusion” that must be cleared up, said Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease doctor.

Fully vaccinated Americans can shed their masks in most places, including indoors and in large groups, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said May 13. The devil is in the details: Even fully vaccinated people are recommended to wear masks on forms of public transportation, in health-care and correctional facilities, and where required by state and local governments or businesses. And the unvaccinated should still mask up in public places as before.

“The problem is,” said Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, “people interpreted that as a signal that you don’t need masks anymore, which absolutely is not the case.”

Fauci Says Confusion Over CDC Mask Guidance Must Be Cleared Up

As businesses and their patrons debate whether and how to heed the new guidelines, confusion lies in knowing who’s vaccinated and who isn’t, said Fauci, also President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, in an interview at “The Bloomberg Businessweek” virtual summit. That’s made it difficult to determine how to respond, he said on Bloomberg Television.

“That’s something that needs to be cleared up, for sure,” he said.

Hedging on Boosters

Though the federal government isn’t requiring proof of vaccination, independent universities, cruise ships and airlines are likely to put in place requirements, he said.

The government was long reluctant to drop the mask mandate, Fauci added, as it waited for data on the rate of transmission among people with asymptomatic cases. Now those agencies have evaluated evidence showing that transmission from asymptomatic carriers of the virus to those who have been vaccinated is extremely unlikely.

Vaccine makers including Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. have suggested booster shots may soon be needed to maintain high effectiveness. Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla has said people may need an additional dose of its shot made in partnership with BioNTech SE this year to extend protection.

Fauci pushed back against that notion, walking back an earlier statement he’d made that boosters might be needed within a year. “I probably shouldn’t have said that,” he said.

“I’m not sure we’re going to need boosters,” he said in the interview with David Westin. “We might, and if so, I don’t know at what point following the vaccinations we might need it. I think that’s still uncharted waters.”

The government will continue to monitor participants in the various vaccine makers’ clinical trials to see how long they continue to showcase antibodies against the virus, he said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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