Dr Anthony Fauci has finally said that fully vaccinated Americans can ditch their masks outdoors – just hours before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance to say that fully vaccinated people can safely go maskless outside or inside, except in crowded indoor settings.
‘If you are vaccinated, you don’t have to wear a mask outside,’ the top U.S. infectious disease expert told CBS This Morning on Thursday.
‘We’ve got to make that transition.
Hours late, officials made another, bigger transition, to a virtually mask-free life for 119 million for Americans who have had their full Covid vaccine regimens.
‘It would be a very unusual situation, if you were going into a completely crowded situation where people are essentially falling all over each other, then you wear a mask. But any other time, if you’re vaccinated and you’re outside, put aside your mask. You don’t have to wear it.’
Dr Fauci has been reluctant to endorse going maskless outdoors, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines, updated last month, saying that fully vaccinated people can safely do just about anything outdoors – except be in a crowd – without a mask.
His reversal comes as the U.S. adult population that is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 rises to 45 percent, with nearly 60 percent having had at least their first dose.
And earlier this week, the CDC came under fire for still exaggerating the risk of coronavirus transmission outdoors, which the agency said was less than 10 percent, but experts assert is really less than one percent.
‘If you are vaccinated, you don’t have to wear a mask outside,’ the top U.S. infectious disease expert told CBS This Morning on Thursday – more than two weeks after the CDC said it was safe
The CDC’s guidance was long-awaited and welcome, but led to confusion about how to tell who has been vaccinated or unvaccinated
Over the holidays, the CDC warned that the primary source of spread was indoor gatherings.
But now that nearly half of adults and more than a third of the overall U.S. population have been fully vaccinate and the weather is warming, allowing more people to gather outdoors.
The CDC said on April 27 that fully vaccinated people could safely exercise and gather with small groups of either vaccinated or unvaccinated people outdoors without their masks, but should still mask up in large crowds like those attending sporting events or concerts.
It was welcome news, but accompanied by confusion as Americans pointed out that there’s not easy way to tell who walking down a street has been vaccinated and who has not, and officials including both Dr Fauci and President Joe Biden have continued to wear masks outside.
Some saw Dr Fauci and President Biden’s continued use of masks as calling creating greater confusion for Americans, after even the cautious CDC acknowledged the low risk of outdoor transmission.
Even then, the CDC gave an estimation of that risk that many experts said was too high.
When the federal health agency released new guidelines on masks for fully vaccinated people last month, director Dr Rochelle Walensky stated that ‘less than 10 percent’ of coronavirus spread was occurring outside.
Epidemiologists and infectious disease scientists tell DailyMail.com that although the figure is not incorrect, the true risk is believed to be much lower.
The number of COVID-19 cases linked to outdoor spread is below one percent, and may even be as low as 0.1 percent.
It comes as New York Times critic David Leonhardt criticized the agency on Tuesday using mischaracterized data – from studies at construction sites in Singapore – to tell Americans to keep their masks on outside rather than following other interventions to help drive down infection rates.
Prior to the CDC releasing its estimate last month, officials had not stated a concrete number on the risk of outdoor transmission.
But, according to The Times, when the agency did settle on ‘less than 10 percent,’ it cited studies showing a large share of COVID-19 cases contracted outside occurred at construction sites in Singapore.
For example, in one study from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 95 cases out of 10,926 documented around the world were classified as outdoors.
All 95 were linked to a cluster at a building site in Singapore.
The data comes from Singapore’s Ministry of Health, but officials there don’t classify the cases as ‘outdoor transmission.’
‘We didn’t classify it according to outdoors or indoors,’ spokesman Yap Wei Qiang told The Times.
‘It could have been workplace transmission where it happens outdoors at the site, or it could also have happened indoors within the construction site.’
The Times discovered that, in many of the cases, the workers had been in close contact with each other and had either met or eaten in enclosed outdoor spaces.
What’s more, several locations that researchers had defined as outdoors for their academic papers were actually a mix of indoors and outdoors as outdoors, meaning many of the Singapore transmissions could have actually occurred inside.
However, even if all the Singapore cases were classified as outdoor transmission, that still represents fewer than one percent of the total cases.
In another study, in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, researchers conducted a systematic review of the cases in Singapore and other around the world, and states they found that the proportion of global infections that occurred outdoors is below 10 percent.
‘In the paper, they write there is limited data but certainly less than 10 percent,’ Dr Aaron Richterman, an infectious disease physician at the University of Pennsylvania, told DailyMail.com.
‘You don’t want to overstate a claim in academic journals, so that’s probably where the 10 percent figure came from.
‘That 10 percent then got translated to the guidance, even though when you look at it, it’s much less than one percent.’