Even Fauci says it might be time to relax indoor mask mandates

indoor mask mandate covid
Photo via Baker County Tourism/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

One of the hallmarks—and controversial flashpoints—of the COVID-19 pandemic has been indoor mask mandates, requiring people to wear facial coverings while inside at public places. But now, thanks to increased vaccinations and decreasing numbers of new COVID-19 cases, the indoor mask mandate may be on its way out.

Even one of the foremost U.S. pandemic experts, Dr. Anthony Fauci, agrees.

Fauci, in a May 9 appearance on ABC, was asked by host George Stephanopoulos, “You’ve had experts like the former head of the (Food and Drug Administration), Scott Gottlieb, say it’s time to start relaxing the indoor mask mandates. Is he right?”

“I think so,” Fauci responded, adding that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be updating its recommendations and guidelines as it monitors the evolving trends.

While Fauci said, “We do need to start being more liberal as we get more people vaccinated,” he also cautioned that the U.S. may not be there yet. As the New York Times relayed, Fauci noted that the U.S. is still averaging about 43,000 cases of the virus daily, asserting, “We’ve got to get it much, much lower than that.”

“For the first time in seven months, the United States is only reporting one new coronavirus case every two seconds,” USA Today observed in its coverage, adding, “At the country’s worst in January, more than five cases were reported every two seconds.” However, the U.S. is still registering about 670 deaths a day—which, based on the chronological math, is one about every two minutes.

But the trendline for vaccinations is also moving downward. The U.S. administered just 5.1 million first doses of the COVID vaccine in the week ending May 9 vs. 12.3 million doses in a comparable seven-day period the month before and just under 14 million doses in the nation’s record-setting week ending April 13.

Gottlieb, appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation on May 9, advocated for a lessening of indoor mask mandates.

“Certainly outdoors, we shouldn’t be putting limits on gatherings anymore,” he said. “The states where prevalence is low, vaccination rates are high, and we have good testing in place. We’re identifying infections. I think we could start lifting these restrictions indoors as well, on a broad basis.”

He went on to assert that lifting pandemic restrictions during times in which they are no longer necessary will make it easier for public health officials to reimplement them should there be a future spike in cases.

Sources: ABC News, New York Times, USA Today, CNN

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