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Dr Fauci refutes study claiming that masks don’t work as Covid concerns rise

‘Many studies show there is an advantage’ to wearing masks, he said

Maggie O'Neill
Monday 04 September 2023 21:03 BST
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Dr Anthony Fauci encouraged Americans to wear masks when necessary in a new interview with CNN.

Dr Anthony Fauci pushed back against a report claiming that masks do not work to stop the spread of Covid-19.

In a CNN interview, the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease said he’s concerned about anti-mask rhetoric, given that Covid cases are rising in the US.

“I am concerned that people will not abide by recommendations—and 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…those who are elderly and those with underlying conditions are going to be more susceptible and vulnerable, if they get infected, to get severe disease leading to hospitalisation,” Dr Fauci told CNN’s Michael Smerconish. “So I would hope that, if in fact we get to the point where…organisations like CDC recommend…that people wear masks, I would hope that they abide by the recommendation and take into account risk to themselves and to their families.”

Smerconish then asked Dr Fauci about a study published by the Cochrane Library earlier this year, which raised questions about the efficacy of masks. He directed Dr Fauci’s attention to an opinion piece published by The New York Times in response to the review, titled “The Mask Mandates Did Nothing. Will Any Lessons Be Learned?”

The piece quotes lead study author Tom Jefferson, an Oxford epidemiologist, as saying: “There is just no evidence that [masks] make any difference. Full stop.” He went on to say that mask mandates imposed early in the pandemic were influenced by “nonrandomized studies, flawed observational studies.” (Randomised control trials are thought by many to be the gold standard for medical research.) In the study conclusion, the authors wrote that “the pooled results of [randomised control trials] did not show a clear reduction in respiratory viral infection with the use of medical/surgical masks”.

Smerconish asked Dr Fauci how Americans should think about masks in light of the Cochrane Library analysis: “How do we get beyond that finding of that particular review?” he said.

Dr Fauci responded by saying that other research has highlighted the efficacy of masks. “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 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” to wearing masks, he said.

Global health authorities still recommend the use of masks in some instances, despite the controversial Cochrane Library analysis. The CDC says masking can “help prevent severe illness and reduce the potential for strain on the healthcare system”. The WHO recommends wearing a mask when in a crowded, enclosed, or poorly ventilated area; if you think you have Covid; if you’re with someone who has Covid or Covid symptoms; or if you’re high-risk for severe disease from Covid.

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