One of the worst problems of mitigating the coronavirus pandemic has been the ever-changing advice from the experts and professionals in the fields of medicine generally and public health policy specifically. One day we are told one thing, the next day brings different advice.
President Trump put together a White House coronavirus task force with Dr. Birx at the helm. Vice-President Pence acts as coordinator. One of the first pieces of advice was about masks. At first, medical experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and others said that masks shouldn’t be considered mandatory in the virus’s mitigation, mostly out of concern for the supply of personal protection equipment for the medical community and first responders. Mask production had to be ramped up quickly to keep up with professional demand, let alone for an increasing demand from the public.
As the supplies met the demands, the experts on the White House coronavirus task force decided we should all be wearing masks. However, they were not taking their own advice, at least when they addressed the public during press briefings. The do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do attitude from some of these experts has been frustrating and confusing. We would see the task force members and the president standing close together – not the 6 feet apart as recommended – and they were not wearing masks. The press covering the briefings weren’t wearing masks, either. This has slowly changed now.
Dr. Fauci hasn’t always worn a face mask when briefing the press. He and Dr. Birx have occasionally worn masks up until recently. Now they seem to be making a point of doing so. Today Fauci is renewing his call for Americans to wear a face mask in public. He admits it is a symbolic gesture at this point and that face masks aren’t completely effective but they help.
“I want to protect myself and protect others, and also because I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that that’s the kind of thing you should be doing,” Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on “Newsroom.”
Fauci said he believes that while wearing a mask is not “100% effective,” it is a valuable safeguard and shows “respect for another person.”
Here’s the thing – shouldn’t he and the task force have been setting the example all along, especially in the very beginning of mitigation when the outbreak was new and so many people were at risk? Now for him to be making a show of it seems to be virtue-signaling more than anything.
I have no problem with wearing a mask, as I have often said. It’s not comfortable, especially for those of us who wear glasses, but it is a common-sense approach to protecting myself and others when just keeping a distance isn’t happening. Standards are loosening up a bit as the pandemic begins to wane. It can be surprising when a delivery person shows up at the door without a face mask or gloves. That happened to me Friday and after my initial surprise upon opening the door and seeing a young woman smiling at me sans mask, we handled the exchange responsibly, I think. She stood back and we had a brief, pleasant conversation. Mission accomplished.
Fauci is correct in saying that face masks aren’t completely effective if what we are all reading is true. Only the medical-grade masks are deemed so, not the cloth masks or disposable paper masks that most of us use. We are working through a box of disposable masks I ordered when all of this first began. Cloth masks have become the new fashion accessory and lots of creative folks have begun cottage industries by making and selling them. More power to them, capitalism works. Masks have become political fodder between some segments of society but it’s 2020 and that is how it goes. I come down on the side of personal responsibility.
As America is slowly re-opening the danger of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is on everyone’s mind. Again, Dr. Fauci seems to have changed his mind. Initially, he was not cheerleading the states that were taking the first steps of rebounding from the national shutdown. Now he is saying that a second wave isn’t inevitable. As long as people continue to successfully mitigate the epidemic, a second wave may not happen.
“We often talk about the the possibility of a second wave, or of an outbreak when you’re reopening,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, said on CNN. “We don’t have to accept that as an inevitability.”
“And particularly when people start thinking about the fall. I want people to really appreciate that, it could happen but it is not inevitable,” he added.
Last month, Fauci had said in multiple interviews that a second wave of COVID-19 was indeed unavoidable.
“It’s inevitable that the coronavirus will return next season. … When it does, how we handle it, will determine our fate,” he told NBC News.
The focus of Fauci’s cautious optimism is the improvement in testing for COVID-19 and improvements made by the CDC in coping with the pandemic.
“I’m feeling better about it as we go by with the weeks that go by, and we see that we’re getting more and more capability of testing,” he said, adding that the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) has built a stronger workforce to help with “identification, isolation, and contact tracing.”
“If we do the kinds of things that we’re putting in place now, to have the workforce, the system, and the will to do the kinds of things that are the clear and effective identification, isolation and contact tracing, we can prevent this second wave that we’re talking about, if we do it correctly,” he continued.
That’s where we are today. Wearing a face mask is still good advice and there is likely a light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s hope the prediction that a second wave isn’t inevitable doesn’t change next week.