Is Marco Rubio right Dr. Fauci lied about masks in March?
- As of Tuesday, December 29, there have been 19.8 million coronavirus cases with 343,965 reported deaths.
- Dr. Anthony Fauci is the leading immunologist for the White House, and has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.
- Marco Rubio is the senior senator of Miami, Florida. He served in the Senate in 2010, ran for Republican presidential nominee in 2016, but dropped out when Trump received more votes in his home state. Since then, he returned to the Senate to work towards maternity leave-coverage, raising the age requirements for buying rifles, and led the Paycheck Protection Program.
- On December 27, Rubio tweeted that Dr. Fauci ‘lied’ about coronavirus and masks in March, saying, “he has been distorting the level of vaccination needed for herd immunity.”
- The previous Sunday, Dr. Fauci said he made “guesstimates” about the virus relating to measles that “75% to 80% herd immunity was reasonable.”
It's tempting for politicians to look back with advanced knowledge and cast dispersions on those operating with the best possible intentions, given the information they had available at the time. Unfortunately, this seems to be the case with Senator Marco Rubio's recent claims that Dr. Anthony Fauci lied about the effectiveness of wearing masks. Given what we know about mask-wearing effectiveness, it may seem like the infectious disease expert was wrong not to ask all Americans to wear masks. This is a revisionist way of looking at the facts, and Marco Rubio is distorting the truth by making this claim. The fact of the matter is that circumstances were much different in the early days of the pandemic. The United States faced a major shortage of PPE equipment such as masks, and Dr. Fauci made recommendations largely based on the idea of saving desperately needed masks for frontline and healthcare workers. A direct quote from the Doctor explains how he envisioned prioritization of limited resources; '…what we're really saying is make sure you prioritize it first for the people who need the mask.'
As the pandemic developed, so did our understanding of the disease and how it was spreading. On April 3rd, about a month after the Doctor's original statement and after significant spread, the CDC declared that given the new knowledge about how community spread affected the course of the pandemic, non-surgical grade face coverings should be worn by everyone. By ignoring this developing knowledge of how the pandemic was spreading, Rubio is taking Fauci's words out of context and distorting the truth.
As the old saying about lies goes, what a tangled web we weave. Marco Rubio made claims Fauci 'distorted' the truth about the need for wearing masks and 'the level of vaccination needed for herd immunity.' Fauci has indeed admitted to misleading the public concerning the wearing of masks early on, saying that he did so out of concern for healthcare workers and the worry that there might not be enough masks to supply both medical workers and the general public. Fauci also claimed that health officials were unaware of how effective cloth masks could be in preventing the spread of coronavirus at the time.
With that said, while Rubio may not be wrong to doubt Dr. Fauci's word after that performance, other experts do seem to agree on the point about herd immunity. The Florida senator has been criticized for downplaying the threat of COVID-19, which seems to be the goal behind his accusations against Fauci here. This appears to be an attempt to use an ad hominem attack to cast doubt on Fauci's current positions, which should be examined on their own merits, apart from the individual espousing them. It's a shame that the US response to this pandemic has become a 'political football.' While it was certainly wrong for Dr. Fauci to double back on recommendations, projections, which leads to perceptions of outright lies, Senator Rubio must continue to get his home state of Florida in order before he can continue to throw stones.