It is "perfectly reasonable and understandable" if businesses want to keep mask mandates in place after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines saying people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 don't need to wear face coverings, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.
"The problem and the issue is that we don’t have any way of knowing who is vaccinated and who's not vaccinated," Fauci, who is President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, said on ABC News' "Good Morning America." "I think that’s where the confusion arises because there are some establishments who are saying, 'Well, I’m going to have people coming into my establishment or my store, or what have you, some are going to be vaccinated, some are not, I’m not going to know the difference.'"
Further, some people might be infected and have the risk of infecting someone else, he said.
Many companies, including Walmart, Starbucks, Target, Trader Joe's, Publix, and Costco have dropped their mask requirements, despite the new CDC guidelines, but other businesses and states have said they will leave the mandates on for now.
Meanwhile, the CDC's new guidance does not apply to people in some situations, including on public transportation, in correctional facilities, healthcare providers, or at homeless shelters, and people still have to adhere to local rules.
There is also some confusion remaining because children under the age of 12 cannot yet be vaccinated, leaving a situation where parents will be able to go unmasked while face coverings are still suggested for children to protect them from COVID.
"We're not going to have kids at that age vaccinated for at least several months as we get towards the end of this year and the beginning of next year," Fauci said.
The CDC is also "not really" saying that whatever a state wants to mandate is fine, said the doctor, also the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The science that has evolved in recent weeks shows that vaccinated people should feel safe to go without wearing a mask, Fauci said, and that points to the effectiveness of the nationwide vaccination effort.
The shots, he pointed out, protect recipients in most cases from being infected or passing an infection on to others, should a breakthrough illness occur
Fauci said that where he is concerned personally, he's "obviously careful" because he's a physician.
"I am now much more comfortable with people seeing me indoors without a mask," he said. "I mean, before the CDC made the recommendation change, I didn't want to look like I was giving mixed signals. But being a fully vaccinated person, the chances of my getting infected in an indoor setting is extremely low and that's the reason why in indoor settings now I feel comfortable about not wearing a mask because I'm fully vaccinated."
Fauci added that he endorses Biden's decision to send 80 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to other countries and said the shipments are only the beginning.
"I feel that as a rich country, we really do have a moral obligation to play a major role in making sure that there are vaccines to those countries that can't afford to get the vaccines themselves," he said.
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