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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - The controversial former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is once again touting face masks as hospitalizations for a new COVID variant are reportedly on the rise.
In a recent interview with CNN, Anthony Fauci expressed his fear that Americans will not mask up if a new strain of the virus — BA.2.86 — picks up steam. CNN host Michael Smerconish questioned Fauci about an extensive study showing face masks make no difference in the spread of the disease.
Referring to the recently reported 18–19% increase in hospitalizations due to the new strain, America's 82-year-old COVID guru reiterated talking points now familiar to the American public: "We're not talking about mandates or forcing anybody, but when you have a situation where the volume of cases in society gets to a reasonably high level, particularly the vulnerable, those who are elderly and those with underlying conditions are going to be more susceptible and vulnerable."
I would hope that if in fact we get to the point where the volume of cases is such that organizations like the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] recommend — CDC doesn't mandate anything, I mean — recommends that people wear masks, I would hope that they abide by the recommendation and take into account the risk to themselves and to their families, and again, we're not talking forcing anybody to do anything.
When Smerconish was confronted with a rigorous and comprehensive analysis of scientific studies disputing the efficacy of masks conducted by respected epidemiologist Tom Jefferson, Fauci was dismissive, insisting
Yeah, but there are other studies, Michael [Smerconish], that show at an individual level, for individual[s], when you're talking about the effect on the epidemic or the pandemic as a whole, the data are less strong, but when you talk about [it] as an individual basis of someone protecting themselves or protecting themselves from spreading it to others, there's no doubt that there are many studies that show that there is an advantage. When you look at the broad population level, like the Cochrane study, the data are less firm with regard to the effect on the overall pandemic.
Jefferson was less ambiguous about the conclusions of his study. "There is just no evidence that they [masks] make any difference," he said in an interview, "Full stop." When asked about the efficacy of the N95 masks [as] opposed to the lower quality surgical or cloth masks, the researcher said: "Makes no difference. None of it."
A number of schools and companies have reimposed mask mandates amid reports of increased numbers of COVID cases. Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia, briefly reintroduced a two-week mask mandate for both students and staff following the commencement of classes. The California-based film studio Lionsgate, claiming it was following county health department orders, also briefly reimplemented a mask mandate at its Santa Monica flagship office after several employees tested positive for COVID.
Many Americans see eye-to-eye with Bret Stephens, whose editorial in the New York Times says if "individuals" want to wear masks, "their choices are their own."
"But when it comes to the population-level benefits of masking, the verdict is in: Mask mandates were a bust," he said. "Those skeptics who were furiously mocked as cranks and occasionally censored as 'mis-informers' for opposing mandates were right. The mainstream experts and pundits who supported mandates were wrong."
Many are also asking along with the CNN host: "[I]f public health officials feel it necessary to ask America to mask up again, how many would comply?"