Dr. Anthony Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. That means his job — his one job — is to handle a severe outbreak of an infectious disease.
But Fauci now reportedly admits he and his team “botched” certain aspects of how to handle COVID after it hit the U.S. in March 2020, including his flip-flopping on the efficacy of masks and the lengthy time it took to make rapid tests available nationwide.
“We didn’t know masks worked outside of the hospital setting. available nationwide. There was supposedly a shortage of good masks for the people who were taking care of individuals,” the doctor said in an interview that aired last week at the Texas Tribune Festival, Fox News reports.
And he put the blame on others for rapid tests, saying, “They did not get the commercial involvement in the tests quickly. They stuck to their own tests,” he said, not defining just who “they” are.
Back in March 2020, Fauci declared, “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.”
“When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is,” the doctor said on CBS News.
Then in January 2021, Fauci said wearing two masks is likely more effective than wearing one. “If you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on it, just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective,” he told NBC News.
Fauci also admitted at the festival that he knew the “draconian” COVID policies he advocated for would lead to “collateral negative consequences” for the “economy” and for “schoolchildren.”
But, of course, Fauci had some blame to spread around, citing the “divisiveness” of “social media” for his flip-flopping.
“When you have a divisiveness in society where every time you say something, you have X number of people with social media looking to attack it, that adds to the understandable confusion when you’re dealing with an evolving outbreak,” Fauci said.
“Of course, when you make recommendations, if the primary goal when you’re dealing with a situation where the hospitals were being overrun in New York, intensive care units were being put in hallways, you have to do something that’s rather draconian,” the doctor said.
“And sometimes when you do draconian things, it has collateral negative consequences, just like when you shut things down, even temporarily, it does have deleterious consequences on the economy, on the schoolchildren. You know that,” he said.
Fauci, though, said there was a method to the madness.
“If you shut things down just for the sake of it, that’s bad,” he said, adding, “But if you do it with the purpose of being able to regroup so that you can then open up in a more safe way, that’s the best way to do it.”
In the months after the virus first hit, it became clear that children are the least endangered. Last week, the Department of Education said American students had “the largest average score decline in reading since 1990, and the first ever score decline in mathematics,” Fox News reported.
In his comments, Fauci was saying what other health officials have already said about governments’ response to the pandemic.
Governments “showed themselves to be untrustworthy and ineffective” during the pandemic by failing to “adhere to basic norms of institutional rationality and transparency,” the Lancet COVID Commission of international experts reported last week.
And Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last month ordered a full reorganization of the agency, saying its response to COVID “did not reliably meet expectations.”