Dr. Anthony Fauci on Friday said it might be time to mandate mask-wearing to curb the spread of coronavirus as the nation broke its previous record for the highest daily total of new COVID-19 cases.
“If people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating it,” Fauci told CNN in an interview on Friday.
The remarks come as data compiled by Johns Hopkins University on Friday revealed a record-breaking high of 83,000 new coronavirus cases for a single day.
Fauci who is both the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a prominent member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, has repeatedly implored mask-wearing to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but has typically shied away from suggesting a widespread national mandate.
“A national mandate probably would not work,” he said during a news conference last month with Vermont Gov. Phil Scott pointing at challenges to enforce mask-wearing.
But on Friday he appeared to take a more urgent stance, suggesting that even amid the difficulties of ensuring the practice is followed it might be time to act.
“There’s going to be a difficulty enforcing it, but if everyone agrees that this is something that’s important and they mandate it and everybody pulls together and says, you know, we’re going to mandate it but let’s just do it, I think that would be a great idea to have everybody do it uniformly,” the public health expert said.
The comments come after Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at a campaign event in Delaware on Friday said that he would implement a national mask mandate.
“As president I will mandate mask wearing in all federal buildings and all interstate transportation because masks save lives – period,” Biden said. “Wearing masks is not a political statement, it is a scientific imperative.”
In July, the White House opposed legislation to mandate masks for workers and passengers on airlines and public transit, suggesting such a rule would be “overly restrictive.” It added at the time that “such decisions should be left to states, local governments, transportation systems, and public health leaders.”
President Trump has a long record of mocking masks, even recently promoting a misleading anti-mask talking point during a televised NBC town hall event, that falsely claims most people who wear face coverings end up contracting coronavirus.
Fauci on Friday again pressed the importance of wearing masks to clamp down on the spread of COVID-19, citing it as a key reason surges have reemerged in a number of states across the country as cooler weather sets in.
“We’re not uniformly doing that and that’s one of the reasons we’re seeing these surges,” Fauci said.