It’s bizarre, however, to blame Birx while letting her colleagues off the hook. CNN’s review clearly implicates Fauci and others in two big mistakes early in the pandemic. First, they underrated the possibility that the virus was spreading asymptomatically. In his interview with Gupta, Fauci defended his incredulity at the time, noting that no previous respiratory pandemic had spread that way. He and Redfield also blamed China for hiding information. But during the program, CNN showed video of Redfield confirming, at a January 2020 press conference with Fauci, that China had “reported evidence of transmission in the asymptomatic phase.”
The second mistake was discouraging use of masks. CNN showed video of Fauci and Redfield urging the public, early in the pandemic, not to wear masks. Gupta noted that by March 8, 2020, Fauci and others knew the virus was “spreading asymptomatically” and was spreading in the United States—yet “you told 60 Minutes” there was “no reason to be walking around with a mask.” Fauci explained that “we were told at the level of the task force that we have a real shortage of masks,” and therefore, to protect the mask supply for health care workers, “We don’t really want the whole country going out and trying to use up all the masks.” That was a deliberate decision—albeit for the sake of medical personnel—to discourage risk reduction in the general population.