Controversial ex-COVID czar Anthony Fauci reemerged this week to urge that, because of rising infection rates, we consider a return to comprehensive masking protocols. That’s bad health-care policy, because it doesn’t follow the science. No wonder nobody’s listening to Dr. Fauci.
Let’s face it: public-health messaging and open, honest debate haven’t been the Good Doctor’s strong suits. He’s the wrong man, at the wrong time, with the wrong advice. But the big problem is a misunderstanding of what’s actually going on.
Following large-scale vaccination efforts and the introduction of the various Omicron variants, states and municipalities with more robust masking regulations have not fared better than those with more targeted strategies for reducing the prevalence of serious disease. Even with today’s significantly more infectious COVID-19 strains, the number of serious viral manifestations remain very low — and, in the majority, most of them impact unvaccinated and high-risk individuals.
So whether or not masking was good at preventing the spread of COVID before vaccines became available, it certainly is not so today. And it’s doubly foolish to use infection rates to trigger a return to widespread masking. Prior to mass vaccination, such rates were an excellent predictor of both hospitalization and death rates; today, they’re still an important data point — but they’re no longer a key indicator of public-health danger.