Dr. Anthony Fauci has been hailed as a hero during the coronavirus pandemic, delivering thoughtful health advice while most members of the Trump regime have spread misinformation about covid-19. But there’s one area where Fauci let America down, hindering the public health response and giving the U.S. both the highest coronavirus case count and the worst recorded death toll in the world. Simply put, Fauci lied about whether masks were helpful in slowing the spread of the virus.
Fauci was asked yesterday by financial news outlet The Street why the U.S. government didn’t promote masks early on during the pandemic. Fauci, who sits on the Trump regime’s zombie-like coronavirus task force, hinted that he knew masks worked, he just wanted any available masks to be saved for health care workers.
“Well, the reason for that is that we were concerned the public health community, and many people were saying this, were concerned that it was at a time when personal protective equipment, including the N-95 masks and the surgical masks, were in very short supply,” Fauci said. “And we wanted to make sure that the people, namely the health care workers, who were brave enough to put themselves in a harm way, to take care of people who you know were infected with the coronavirus and the danger of them getting infected.”
Fauci didn’t just fail to promote masks early on, he actively discouraged the use of masks, saying they didn’t work. Americans are now paying the price because too many people think masks are useless to combat the coronavirus. In reality, masks have been shown to help prevent the spread of covid-19, as the CDC now admits.
All we need to do is look at the things that Fauci was saying back in February — a time before most Americans were taking the threat of covid-19 seriously and people like Donald Trump were assuming it was just a problem for the Chinese government.
“There is no reason for anyone right now in the United States, with regard to coronavirus, to wear a mask,” Fauci told Spectrum News DC on February 14.
It was something that Fauci would say repeatedly whenever he gave interviews in February, as the pandemic spread to countries like Germany, Italy, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. And Fauci may not have known it yet, but coronavirus was also spreading quickly in the U.S. By the end of February, over 20 countries had identified the coronavirus within their borders.
Despite being remembered as level-headed during the early days of the crisis in the U.S., Fauci was incredibly slow to publicly recognise the threat from coronavirus. On February 17, he recalled stories of people asking whether it was safe to travel, ridiculing the idea that it might not be wise to get on a plane. But it was clear to anyone paying attention to news media outside of the U.S. that the coronavirus would soon be an international problem.
First, a quick lesson in recent history: Human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus was confirmed on January 21, Chinese leader Xi Jinping said publicly that the health crisis from coronavirus “must be taken seriously,” on January 21, over 20 million people in China were put into lockdown on January 23, Disneyland locations in Hong Kong and Shanghai both closed in the last week of January, and countries like Australia were already setting up quarantine for some travellers in the first week of February. High school teachers returning to Australia from China were even giving classes by Zoom in early February, as Gizmodo reported at the time.
By mid-February, the pandemic in Italy had gotten so bad that hospitals were becoming overwhelmed and case counts were rising exponentially. The Lombardy region of Italy went into lockdown and on February 23 grocery store shelves were stripped bare as people purchased food in a panic.
With all of this going on around the world, February 17 was an incredibly late date to be making fun of people who were concerned about travel. But that’s precisely what Fauci did in the pages of USA Today.
“I was getting calls from people in Sacramento saying, ‘Can I get on an aeroplane to go to Seattle?’” Fauci told USA Today on February 17. “Like, what? What does that got to do with anything?”
We now know that the first identified American death from covid-19 was on February 6 in San Jose, California. And because the CDC wasted the entire month of February with faulty tests, no one knows just how widespread the disease already was in the U.S. during the first weeks of February. And it wasn’t just in February that Fauci dismissed the threat. As late as March, Fauci was still insisting that masks were bad for public health.
“There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask,” Fauci told 60 Minutes on CBS during an interview that aired March 8. “When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is. And, often, there are unintended consequences — people keep fiddling with the mask and they keep touching their face.”
It’s no surprise that anti-mask advocates often use Fauci’s interview with 60 Minutes when they try to discredit masks as an effective tool on social media. And platforms like Facebook and Twitter are still filled with people who insist that you can actually hurt yourself by wearing a mask because you’re forced to inhale carbon dioxide. It’s a dumb and inaccurate argument, but it’s surprisingly common.
Masks were the butt of jokes in early March, as people like Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz infamously wore a gas mask on the House floor while he went to vote on the $US8.3 ($12) billion emergency spending bill passed on March 4. Gaetz and other Republicans appeared on Fox News to insist that it was all nothing but hype, something that some commentators like Laura Ingraham still claim, despite the fact that tens of thousands of Americans are still contracting the virus every single day.
Other western countries like the UK were also initially sceptical of masks, leading to a terrible outbreak in England, exacerbated by a bungled response from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a man who eventually survived his own bout with covid-19 after being moved to the ICU and given oxygen. The BBC, Britain’s public broadcaster, even aired anti-mask segments that insisted facemasks did nothing to stop the spread of coronavirus, including this one from March 22 that’s still available on YouTube.
The UK currently has over 298,000 cases and at least 41,000 deaths, the fourth worst outbreak in the world. The U.S. has over 2.1 million cases and more than 116,000 deaths, with no signs of the pandemic slowing down.
What would have happened if Fauci had been honest with Americans back in February, levelling with people that the U.S. didn’t have a good supply of facial coverings for health workers and that any N-95 masks should be reserved for doctors and nurses? Fauci could have explained that while masks worked, they needed to be reserved for health care professionals. The government was seizing most of the masks while they were shipped anyway, so it’s not like most masks were finding their way to stores.
Instead, Fauci and other top government officials made fun of people who wanted to wear a mask. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams even told people on February 29 to stop buying masks because they don’t work.
“Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!” Adams tweeted. “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”
And, as a result, there was mass confusion when the government finally flipped and started to recommend masks for everyone, even if they had to make them at home. The CDC didn’t change its guidance on mask use until April 3, finally recommending that people wear masks, even if they’re homemade out of cloth.
Fauci’s refusal to embrace masks has had a real impact on the way that Americans perceive the coronavirus fight. And, like everything today, even masks have become a partisan battleground. Roughly 70% of Democrats say they wear a mask “every time” they leave the house, according to a poll late last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Compare that with just 37% of Republicans.
There have been subtle differences in the ways that each country has fought the coronavirus pandemic. New Zealand closed its borders and implemented a system to test residents. Kiwis then scaled up its track and trace program to identify close contacts, isolating them so that they didn’t get others sick. Taiwan also implemented track and trace procedures, but it put a special emphasis on masks to control community spread. Hong Kong put a heavy emphasis on “universal masking” as well, which is credited with keeping the spread of covid-19 to a minimum.
Health officials in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan even tried to warn western countries that they needed to wear masks, and it’s not the fault of the American people that they didn’t listen. Americans were hearing from their own health experts, not watching international news.
“If you are going to a crowded place, put on a mask even if you are not ill because others may be, even if they have cough etiquette or sneeze etiquette, they may still get in touch with you,” Dr. Gabriel Leung, an expert on SARS and Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control, said at a press conference in Hong Kong on January 21, as Gizmodo reported at the time.
But America’s own health officials, people like Anthony Fauci, were telling Americans that masks were useless. And Americans are going to pay the price in the months and years ahead, as there’s no guarantee that a covid-19 vaccine will even work if it’s developed. It doesn’t matter if his heart was in the right place in some effort to save masks for doctors and nurses, Fauci did real harm to public health in the United States.
When all is said and done, Fauci might be remembered as a folk hero, but he sure has a lot of blood on his hands. And none of this is anywhere close to done.