The public were not told to use face masks early on in the coronavirus pandemic to protect the supply of masks for health care workers, Dr Anthony Fauci, a leading member of the US coronavirus taskforce, said Friday.
During the early days of the virus, the scientific community generally told the public that only people infected with the virus needed to wear a mask. Today, most health authorities state nearly everyone, infected or not, should be wearing masks as a crucial tool to stop the spread of the virus.
This change in policy can be attributed to fears over shortages of the masks during the onset of the virus, Fauci told US financial news site The Street.
“We were concerned that it was at a time when personal protective equipment, including the N95 masks and the surgical masks, were in very short supply. And we wanted to make sure that the people namely, the health care workers, who were brave enough to put themselves in a harm way, to take care of people who you know were infected with the coronavirus and the danger of them getting infected,” Fauci said, The Street reported.
The WHO, which has been at the forefront of the international fight against the virus, first advised the public in January that face masks are generally not recommended.
However, the WHO then updated its guidelines earlier this month, recommending to governments that they ask everyone to wear fabric face masks in public places to prevent the spread of the infection.
“Masks are not 100 percent protective. However, they certainly are better than not wearing a mask. Both to prevent you, if you happen to be a person who may feel well, but has an asymptomatic infection that you don't even know about, to prevent you from infecting someone else,” Fauci added, according to The Street.
“But also, it can protect you a certain degree, not a hundred percent, in protecting you from getting infected from someone who, either is breathing, or coughing, or sneezing, or singing or whatever it is in which the droplets or the aerosols go out. So masks work,” he said.