Americans could be wearing masks for ‘several months,’ Fauci says


Dr. Anthony Fauci listens to US President Joe Biden, out of frame, during a visit to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, on February 11. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The relaxation of Covid-19 mitigation measures has to be done gradually, and there will be a need to wear masks for several more months, the US’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Friday on Good Morning America.

“You want to do it gradually and safely as opposed to just turning it on and off right away,” Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said when asked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos about whether it was safe for states to relax mask mandates and allow indoor dining again.

There’s still going to be the important need to wear masks, I think we still need to do that,” he added. “You want to avoid congregate settings, but you can gradually get to the situation where you might open up restaurants with limited seating and things like that. But it’s got to be done prudently and gradually.” 

When asked by Stephanopoulos how long the need for masks would be, Fauci said that he didn’t think it was measured in years, but the level of virus in the community needs to be lower.

“I think we’re going to be wearing masks for several, several months into the future,” he said.

His projection is that by the time 70 to 85% of people are vaccinated, “the level of virus in the community could be so low that you could start pulling back a bit on what are stringent public health measures” — but it shouldn’t be done all at once.

Reopening of schools

In regards to the re-opening of all K-8 (elementary-middle) schools, he said it is doable in US President Joe Biden’s first 100 days, but added it must be done safely.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to release guidelines Friday about reopening schools.

When asked what parents should know about whether it’s safe to open schools and give them confidence that it’s ok, Fauci told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he thinks it’s going to be a combination of things, and that he didn’t want to get ahead of the guidelines coming from the CDC.

What you want to do is make sure it’s safe for the students and safe for the teachers and other personnel associated with the educational system,” Fauci said. He added that ways to make it safe include masking and good ventilation, and by getting vaccinations to teachers as quickly as possible.