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Fauci: Mask advice was because of doctors’ shortages from the start

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  • Dr Anthony Fauci has said the public was initially told not to wear masks to stop COVID-19 due to shortages of PPE for doctors, in an interview with finance site The Street
  • He said the changing government advice has been down to “changing circumstances” and new research.
  • He denied that earlier advice against wearing a mask is a contradiction of the new policy.
  • Fauci now advocates masks “unequivocally,” as a complementary measure to social distancing. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that the reason the public was advised not to wear masks at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic was because there were too few to go around.

Speaking to finance site The Street, Fauci, the government’s foremost infectious diseases expert, was asked about the changing government advice on wearing masks. 

During January through March, as the spread of the disease became more and more serious, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) actively discouraged the use of masks among the general public.

By early April, simple cloth face coverings were recommended for the general public, instead of of PPE such as surgical or N95 masks, The New York Times reported.

Fauci’s comments echo those of Surgeon-General Jerome Adams on March 2 who said that the increased demand for masks was putting medical professionals at risk.

A few days earlier he had claimed on Twitter that masks are “not effective in preventing” COVID-19 in the general public, urging “Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!” He alter reversed his advice.

Fauci explained the early advice against masks by saying: “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.”

N-95 masks are higher-grade equipment than ordinary masks, and are mainly used by medical workers.

He added that the government did not want healthcare workers “to be without the equipment that they needed … We were afraid that that would deter away the people who really needed it.”

He also said that the government knows more about the effectiveness of different types of masks than it did at the beginning. “Now we have masks, and we know that you don’t need an N95 if you’re an ordinary person in the street.

“We also know that simple cloth coverings that many people have can work as well as a mask in many cases.”

Fauci acknowledged the appearance of a contradiction in the government’s public health advice, but denied this was the case. “Actually the circumstances have changed,” he said. “That’s the reason why.”

Fauci also came out “unequivocally” in favour of wearing masks in public, even though they do not offer a guarantee. 

“Masks are not 100% protective,” he said. “However, they certainly are better than not wearing a mask.”

He also advocated social distancing, with masks as a backup. “So physical separation … is the best way to get a virus not to get to you,” he said. 

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