Get PolitiFact in your inbox.
If Your Time is short
An old video of Dr. Anthony Fauci saying that people don’t need to wear face masks was taken out of context.
Since April, the CDC has recommended face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and Fauci has pushed for their use as well.
A video showing Dr. Anthony Fauci telling people not to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is being taken out of context on social media. It’s an outdated video that ignores the fact that the CDC and Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, both recommend most people wear face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.
The video post from June 24 was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
It shows footage from CBS’ "60 Minutes" on March 8, when Fauci said that, in general, people did not need to wear masks when they went outside. The video is framed by the words, "Dr. Fauci: No reason to be wearing a mask."
The 40-second clip starts off with Fauci saying, "Right now, people should not be walking, there’s no reason to be walking around with a mask." He said masks do not provide the "perfect protection" against contracting the virus that people think. The clip ends with Fauci saying, "When you think masks, you should think of healthcare providers needing them."
The clip ends with Fauci wearing a mask. The Facebook user who posted this video in June said Americans are "being toyed with."
It is not apparent to many viewers that Fauci’s statements were cherry-picked, and the video is four months old.
The clip left out, for instance, one reason Fauci gave for some Americans wearing a mask: "The masks are important for someone who’s infected to prevent them from infecting someone else."
A lot changed after that interview. Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. spiked in April and reached new all-time highs in late June and early July, according to Johns Hopkins University.
In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shifted its recommendations on face coverings for people over 2 years old when leaving their household. While the CDC previously discouraged people who weren’t showing symptoms from wearing face coverings, the agency said the switch came after studies about virus transmission by people who are asymptomatic.
In a June interview with TheStreet, a financial news website, Fauci said that wearing a mask is better than not wearing one because it can prevent a person from infecting someone else through droplets from coughing, sneezing or talking loudly, for example. Fauci also said that masks can protect, "to a certain degree," the person wearing a mask from getting infected.
Fauci said that public health officials previously stated that face coverings weren’t necessary because they were concerned about a shortage for those who need them most, like medical professionals.
"Right now, unequivocally, the recommendation is when you’re out there, particularly if you’re in a situation where there’s active infection, keep the distance physically and wear a mask," he said on TheStreet.
A viral Facebook post shows Fauci saying people did not need to be wearing face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is framed by text that says, "Dr. Fauci: No reason to be wearing a mask."
The undated clip lacks significant context. The interview happened in March, amid shortfalls of face masks for hospital workers. The CDC and Fauci have since shifted their recommendations on face masks amid rising coronavirus cases, saying that most people should wear face coverings in public spaces to reduce the spread of the virus.
The all-caps summary text is an oversimplification of what Fauci said. He was speaking generally when he said people did not need to be wearing a mask in public in March. However, Fauci said in the same interview that infected people should wear a mask to prevent other people from catching the virus. The clip leaves that out.
The video contains an element of truth but leaves the wrong impression. We rate it Mostly False.
YouTube, March 2020: Dr. Anthony Fauci talks with Dr Jon LaPook about Covid-19, March 8, 2020
Johns Hopkins University, New Cases of COVID-19 In World Countries, accessed July 7, 2020
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Considerations for Wearing Cloth Face Coverings, June 28, 2020
PolitiFact, To fight COVID-19, CDC now says wear masks in public, May 1, 2020
TheStreet, Why Weren’t We Wearing Masks From the Beginning? Dr. Fauci Explains, June 12, 2020
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.