Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, rejected on Sunday the idea that wearing or not wearing a face covering is a matter of personal liberty.
Fauci's comments come as Democratic leaders re-enact face mask mandates while Republicans leaders defer such decisions to individual discretion.
What did Fauci say?
Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Fauci said he "respectfully disagree[s]" with Republicans who advocate for personal liberty and individual choice on the matter of face mask mandates.
To justify his rejection of personal liberty, Fauci said wearing a face mask is not simply a matter of individual choice because not doing so may cause others to become infected with COVID-19.
"I disagree with them. I respectfully disagree with them," Fauci said. "The fact is there are things that are individual responsibilities that one has an there are things that have to do with you individually which also impact others."
"A person's individual, individual decision to not wear a mask, not only impacts them — because if they get infected even though they say, 'It's my decision if I get infected, I'll worry about that' — but the fact is if you get infected, even if you are without symptoms, you very well may infect another person who may be vulnerable, who may get seriously ill," Fauci continued.
"So in essence, you are encroaching on their individual rights because you're making them vulnerable," he claimed. "So you could argue that situation both ways."
Earlier in the interview, ABC News anchor Jonathan Karl pressed Fauci on new mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which state that fully vaccinated Americans in regions with high transmission rates of COVID-19 should wear a face mask indoors.
Fauci explained the mask guidance was updated to protect vulnerable people.
"We know that vaccinated, asymptomatic, mildly symptomatic people who are infected can spread the infection," Fauci said. "So you want them to wear a mask so that if, in fact, they do get infected, they don't spread it to vulnerable people."
Fauci also said during his "This Week" interview that "things are going to get worse," but predicted lockdowns would not result from the current COVID surge.