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Dr. Fauci: Reasonable for businesses to keep masks

Fauci said it is “reasonable and understandable” that some businesses are keeping mask requirements because they can’t be sure of someone's vaccine history.

WASHINGTON — The nation’s top infectious disease expert is acknowledging “confusion” after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week said fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks in most instances, even indoors.

Dr. Anthony Fauci tells ABC News, “The problem and the issue is that we don’t have any way of knowing who is vaccinated and who’s not vaccinated.”

He says it is “reasonable and understandable” that some businesses and localities are maintaining mask requirements because they can’t be sure of an individual’s vaccination history. But he says it’s important to note those measures protect the unvaccinated from each other, and vaccines provide a high level of protection for those who have gotten them.

Fauci says children who are not vaccinated — including children under 12 who won’t be eligible for vaccines for months — should continue to wear masks indoors. But he says that recommendation could change as the CDC conducts more research and more Americans get shots.

RELATED: Fauci says pandemic exposed 'undeniable effects of racism'

RELATED: CDC director says mask turnaround based solely on science

On Sunday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on Fox News that the decision to ease mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, stressing that increasing political pressure had nothing to do with the abrupt shift in guidelines. 

“I’m delivering the science as the science is delivered to the medical journals. And it evolved," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on FOX News Sunday. “I deliver it as soon as I can when we have that information available.”

But, she added, even though the guidance has changed, “there’s no need for everybody to start ripping off their masks."

Credit: AP
In this Friday, May 8, 2020 file photo, a respiratory therapist pulls on a second mask over her N95 mask before adding a face shield as she gets ready to go into a patient's room in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at a hospital in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

The United States has more than 32 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

As of Tuesday, the U.S. had more than 586,000 deaths from the virus. Worldwide, there are more than 163 million confirmed cases with more than 3.3 million deaths.