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New emails show how Dr. Anthony Fauci constantly changed his opinion on how effective the use of masks are to the American public.
On Feb. 4, 2020, Sylvia Burwell, a former secretary of Health and Human Services under Barack Obama and the current president of American University in Washington DC, emailed Dr. Anthony Fauci with a question.
“Tony … I am traveling to [REDACTED]. Folks are suggesting I take a mask for the airport,” Burwell wrote. “Is this something I should do.”
Fauci got back to her early the following day.
“Sylvia: Masks are really for infected people to prevent them from spreading infection to people who are not infected rather than protecting uninfected people from acquiring infection,” wrote the head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
“The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through the material. It might, however, provide some slight benefit in keep[ing] out gross droplets if someone coughs or sneezes on you. I do not recommend that you wear a mask, particularly since you are going to a very low risk location.”
Fauci’s evolution from mask skeptic to mask acolyte (he stated last month that unvaccinated children should still wear masks while playing with friends) is one of the many threads that can be seen in more than 3,200 pages of emails obtained by Buzzfeed News through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The emails show that Fauci, now White House chief medical adviser, stuck to the line that only infected people should wear masks for several weeks after the exchange with Burwell. On Feb. 22, Fauci signed off on responses drafted by a NIAID spokesperson to 12 interview questions from a Greek newspaper. The last question read: “Which are the protective measures anyone should take against the new virus? Do masks work?”
“The vast majority of people outside of China do not need to wear a mask,” read the Fauci-approved response. “A mask is more appropriate for someone who is infected than for people trying to protect against infection.”
On March 8, “60 Minutes” broadcast a now-infamous interview with Fauci in which he insisted: “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask,” in part because “it could lead to a shortage of masks for the people who really need it.”
Eight days after the interview aired, Fauci received an email from a man named Michael Liu with the subject line: “Great advice from Chinese expert.” The expert Liu cited was Dr. Wenhong Zhang, the head of the infectious disease unit at Huashan Hospital in Shanghai. The email did not mention that Zhang is a Communist Party official who first gained media fame in China when he announced in January 2020 that he would send doctors and nurses who were Party members to front-line hospitals.
“According to Dr. Zhang’s video … COVID-19 can really be prevented with 3 key measures, i.e. to keep social distancing , wash hands frequently and wear masks,” Liu wrote. “I strongly suggest American people should wear masks like Chinese, South Korean people, etc., because even China ‘s highest leader, Mr. Jinping Xi, wears
masks.” Liu signed off his email with the message: “God bless you! God bless America, China and the whole world!”
“Thank you for your note,” Fauci responded. “We indeed have learned much from our Chinese colleagues. I appreciate your bringing these issues to our attention.” He signed the message: “Tony.”
By the end of March, Fauci had become more receptive to the idea of masking up. As he wrote to a Dr. David Katz of La Jolla, Calif. on the last day of that month: “There are some data from NIH that indicate that mere speaking without coughing elicits aerosols that travel a foot or two. If that is the case, then perhaps universal wearing of masks in the most practical way to go.”
On April 3, then-President Donald Trump announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was recommending Americans wear cloth or fabric face coverings in public places. States like New York soon announced that residents should wear masks when social distancing was not possible.
That guidance would not be lifted until last month, when the CDC announced non-vaccinated people could ditch their masks in almost any situation.
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