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Even after the pandemic is over, Fauci says we still might need masks

how long will we have to wear masks covid pandemic
Photo via Alexandre Dulaunoy/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that face masks could be worn seasonally even after the COVID-19 pandemic concludes. So, if your question is, how long do we have to wear masks, the answer might be this: for the foreseeable future.

The observation, as part of an interview Fauci did with NBC’s Meet the Press on May 9, is based on the effectiveness the masks appear to have had in limiting the spread of the flu over the past year, as well as its mitigating effects against COVID-19.

“I think people have gotten used to the fact that wearing masks. Clearly if you look at the data it diminishes respiratory diseases, we’ve had practically a nonexistent flu season this year merely because people were doing the kinds of public health things that were directed predominately against COVID-19,” Fauci said in the interview, according to CNBC.

“So it is conceivable that as we go on a year or two or more from now that during certain seasonal periods when you have respiratory borne viruses like the flu,” he continued, “people might actually elect to wear masks to diminish the likelihood that you’ll spread these respiratory borne diseases.”

The Washington Post reported, “Common viruses such as influenza have virtually disappeared this year, partly because of coronavirus restrictions like face masks. And a sharp decline in flu infections during this year’s season has led to only one registered pediatric death, compared with dozens in past years, official data shows.”

That article also noted that Fauci’s statement about the possible renewed use of masks comes two weeks after federal health officials said fully vaccinated people can go without masks while dining outdoors or participating in activities like walking, jogging, or biking. Fauci’s even hinted that indoor mask mandates could be relaxed should COVID-19 case numbers continue to drop and vaccination numbers continue to increase.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the meantime, is still recommending people wear masks outdoor whenever crowds congregate, like stadiums, where unvaccinated people might be present and social distancing might be challenging to maintain.

As noted by the Miami Herald, fewer than 2,000 flu cases in the U.S. were confirmed by the CDC this season, compared to 38 million during the 2019-2020 season.

“It’s been an amazing year,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, professor emeritus of infectious diseases at the University of California-Berkeley. “In all my years of being a flu watcher … I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Read more on coronavirus face coverings:

Sources: CNBC, Washington Post, Miami Herald


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