Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's foremost expert on infectious diseases, has over the past year given remarkably inconsistent advice on whether or not to wear a mask and how many masks to wear.
"People should not be walking around with masks," he said in a March 8th interview with CBS' "60 Minutes." "There's no reason to be walking around with a mask. 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."
Less than a month later, however, he had changed his mind.
"Because of [the need for people to go to stores for food an other necessities] and because of some recent information that the virus can actually be spread even when people just speak, as opposed to coughing and sneezing, the better part of valor is that when you’re out and you can’t maintain that six-foot distance, to wear some sort of facial covering," he told FOX News on April 3rd.
Nearly two months after that, he seemingly altered his position again, saying that while masks might provide some protection, they are mainly valuable as virtue-signaling tools.
"I wear it for the reason that I believe it is effective. It is not 100 percent effective. It’s sort of respect for another person and have that other person respect you," he told CNN on May 27th. "You wear a mask, they wear a mask, you protect each other. I do it when I’m in the public for the reasons that, A, I want to protect myself and protect others and also because I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that’s that the kind of thing you should be doing. And when I walk around the street and the neighborhood where I live in Washington, D.C., which still has a considerable number of infections, it’s very clear that many people are doing that."
By late July, mask-wearing started to be required in a number of states and FOX News reporter John Roberts asked Dr. Fauci why he advocated against wearing masks back in March and whether he believed that if Americans had started wearing masks back then, the pandemic might not have been as severe.
"Well, I think we would be somewhat better off if people were continually wearing masks back then, John, but you can always second-guess yourselves and say what could have been or what should have been done," Fauci replied. "At the time when we were told that there is a serious diminution in the availability of PPEs for the people who really need them back then, and also back then we didn’t fully realize how significant the amount of asymptomatic infection was, and importantly, the fact that people who were asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic could transmit the virus, something we know for sure occurs right now. So the situation was different. I mean, you acted on the information you had at the time."
Over the past month, Fauci has been similarly inconsistent when asked whether wearing two masks might actually be better than one in stopping the spread of COVID-19. When members of President Joe Biden's cabinet, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, were seen wearing two masks during Biden's inauguration, members of the media began wondering whether the public should follow suit.
"A lot of folks are hearing now about double masking--wearing two masks or getting one of those N95 medical-grade masks," asked NBC's Savannah Guthrie. "Do you believe that that's advisable or makes a difference?"
"You know, it likely does because I mean, this is a physical covering to prevent droplets and virus to get in," Fauci replied. "So if you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective. And that’s the reason why you see people either double masking or doing a version of an N-95."
Just six days later, though, he seemed to contradict himself.
"There are many people who feel, you know, if you really want to have an extra little bit of protection, maybe I should put two masks on," he said. "There’s nothing wrong with that but there’s no data that indicates that that is going to make a difference and that’s the reason why the CDC has not changed the recommendations."
Later that same day, however, Fauci again changed his mind about double-masking in an interview with CNN's Wolf Bitzer.
"We know that the standard surgical mask for the most part is better than a cloth mask, but it depends on the cloth mask," Fauci said. "But that’s not the question that people are asking. They’re asking, 'should you wear two masks?' That’s the easiest thing to do. So what the CDC says right now, as you mentioned correctly, the most important thing is everybody should wear a mask. We don’t have enough data yet, and the CDC will be collecting this, as to whether or not two masks are going to be better than one mask.
"But, you know, if you use common sense and say until we get the data, if a physical barrier with one mask works, it makes common sense that two layers or three layers, and you should have a double-layer mask in one mask anyway, but if you want to put an extra mask on, there’s nothing wrong with that. We can’t formally recommend it, because we don’t have the science behind it. But I would not hesitate to tell someone if they want to wear two masks, go ahead."