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Emails show Fauci pushed 'voluntary' healthcare masking after publicly emphasizing their importance

Doctor's relaxed private opinions on mask wearing contradicted his public urgency.

Published: June 4, 2021 10:18am

Updated: June 4, 2021 11:58am

Newly released emails from U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci show the celebrated doctor appearing to contradict himself in private over mask guidance that he had repeatedly stressed in public for many weeks. 

The emails, obtained by the Informed Consent Action Network, span from February to May of 2020, when Fauci and other U.S. officials were scrambling to address the unfolding SARS-Cov-2 crisis in the country.

U.S. health officials in the late winter and early spring of 2020 had repeatedly stressed that Americans did not need to wear a mask as a protective measure against virus, which came to be known as COVID-19.

Starting in April 2020, health officials, including Fauci, changed their recommendations and began pushing for widespread mask usage.

Yet even as general mask usage was being discouraged earlier in the year, Fauci stressed what he said was their critical importance in the healthcare industry.

Health officials were pushing last year for mask wearing out of the belief that wearing them would block the large droplets from humans thought to be responsible for spreading the virus. 

"The one thing you don't want to do, you don't want to take masks away from the health care providers who are in a real and present danger of getting infected," he said in early April 2020. "That would be the worst thing we do."

In an  April 16 email, however, Fauci told Medical University of South Carolina Dean Ray DuBois that he should not require healthcare workers in his system to don a face mask while on the job. 

"Currently, we have a 'voluntary' mask wearing policy for the health system and our main University Hospital," DuBois wrote Fauci. "Based on your recent comments about asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic carriers of COVID-19, do you agree that keeping this voluntary is the correct approach?"

"I would keep the policy 'voluntary,' " Fauci replied, "but I would 'encourage' employees to wear them."

Fauci did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday morning regarding the seeming discrepancy between his strong advocacy for healthcare masking versus his apparent diffidence toward mandatory mask policy in a healthcare setting.

The federal infectious disease expert has been a strong advocate of masking over the past year, insisting that new evidence emerged after the start of the pandemic to support the usage of face coverings during the pandemic. 

Fauci has also claimed that his earlier advice to not wear masks was in part an attempt to keep the public from buying up masks that were allegedly badly needed in the healthcare sector.

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