Hoo boy: Fauci still not ready to say it's okay for kids to be outside without masks

I’ve watched this clip three times and I’m not sure if I’m misunderstanding him or he’s misunderstanding Savannah Guthrie or if we’re all understanding each other and he really does mean to say that kids shouldn’t even walk with their parents without masks outside.

Guthrie asks him about picking up her young daughter at the bus stop from school. Guthrie’s had her first vaccine dose but not her second, yet she took her mask off for the walk home because the new CDC guidelines say it’s fine for an unvaccinated person to go maskless outdoors with members of their own household. What about my daughter, though? she asked Fauci. Does she still have to wear the mask outdoors even though I don’t?

Well, sure, Fauci says. Because kids aren’t eligible to get vaccinated yet, apparently they need to take every precaution.

Uh, what? Watch, then read on.

“This is total, complete, blood-boiling nonsense and contradicts Fauci’s comment on Sunday that ‘The risk when you’re outdoors – which we have been saying all along – is extremely low,'” an angry Karol Markowicz tweeted about the clip. “This man is a menace,” added Philip Klein after watching it. “We can debate whether that was always true, but it is indisputable now.”

If the new guidance says it’s okay for unvaxxed adults to go maskless outdoors, how can it be risky for kids to do the same, especially young kids like Guthrie’s who are at less risk of infection than adults are? What’s striking about the clip is how absolute he is, unconcerned with the details of the situation Guthrie described. It simply can’t be that a child walking with a member of her own household needs to wear a mask outdoors, given that that child will surely remove the mask once she’s back home indoors with the same member of her household. And it must be that younger children, who have a greater degree of immunity than teenagers do, are at less risk being unmasked outdoors than older kids are. Maybe a large group of younger kids crowded closely together outdoors during playtime is at somewhat higher risk of infection but it makes no sense that they’d need to wear masks if they’re spread out and playing soccer, say.

Fauci seems unconcerned with any of those distinctions, though. Kids should wear masks in all situations outside the home, he seems to believe, since it’ll be months before they’ve vaccinated.

To which I say again: What?

Two public-health experts have an op-ed at the Journal this afternoon making the case that if you’re outdoors and you’re not in a big crowd you don’t need to wear a mask. Period. A simple, clear rule:

You don’t need to wear a mask outdoors.

That applies whether you’re vaccinated against Covid-19 or not, regardless of your age, and despite the other qualifications in the Centers for Disease Control’s latest guidance, released Tuesday. The only exception is in a packed setting in which social distancing is impossible, such as a political rally or a sports arena filled to capacity.

The three main Covid mitigation strategies are distancing, masks and ventilation. Accumulating evidence indicates how difficult it is to contract the virus outdoors, which is as ventilated as it gets. One modeling study estimated that ventilation outside, even with only a gentle breeze, is well over 100 times as effective as in an office, and more than 1,000-fold better than in most homes.

Note that Fauci also seems to think in the clip that it’s a fait accompli that kids will be vaccinated eventually, if perhaps not before the end of the year. That just ain’t true. An Israeli official said recently that they’ve reached a high enough degree of herd immunity there that they think vaccinating kids under 12 will be unnecessary in order to keep cases down. In light of that precedent and the fact that there are many millions of anti-vax adults here, it’s a cinch that there’ll be fierce pushback against any school district that tries to require vaccination as a condition of enrollment. Which means many kids won’t end up being vaccinated after all.

What then? Kids wearing masks forever?

I’d put the odds at 50/50 that Tucker’s going to try to make a citizen’s arrest of Fauci during his monologue tonight. I’ll leave you with this, which haunted my dreams last night and hopefully will haunt yours too.