Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, angrily responded in a recent podcast interview to accusations that he flip-flopped on face mask guidance during the pandemic.
Despite claiming that scientific data — not him — had changed, Fauci's claim contradicted what he admitted in an interview last year when he explained the reason behind the vacillating face mask guidance in the early days of the pandemic.
What did Fauci say in the podcast?
Speaking on the New York Times podcast "Sway," Fauci defended himself from accusations of flip-flopping on face masks.
The crux of the issue, of course, is that when the pandemic began last spring, leaders including Fauci urged Americans to neither buy face masks nor wear them. They later postulated face masks were the primary protective measure against COVID-19.
"The people who are giving the ad hominems are saying, 'Ah, Fauci misled us. First he said no masks, then he said masks.' Well, let me give you a flash: that's the way science works. You work with the data you have at the time," Fauci said.
"It is essential as scientist that you evolve your opinion and your recommendations based on the data as it evolves. That is the nature of science. It is a self-correcting process. And that's the reason why I say people who then criticize me about that are actually criticizing science," Fauci continued. "It was not a change because I felt like flip-flopping; it was a change because the evidence changed — the data changed."
But what did Fauci say last year?
By June 2020, most states had implemented face masks mandates. Fauci was then asked by The Street why health experts did not recommend the wearing of face masks sooner.
According to Fauci, the updated recommendations had nothing to do with science, but everything to do with supply.
"Well, the reason for that is that we were concerned the public health community, and many people were saying this, were concerned that it was at a time when personal protective equipment, including the N95 masks and the surgical masks, were in very short supply. And we wanted to make sure that the people namely, the health care workers, who were brave enough to put themselves in a harm way, to take care of people who you know were infected with the coronavirus and the danger of them getting infected," he said.
Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb admitted in March that public health experts "probably over-relied on a flu-based model" of COVID-19, which resulted in mandating social distancing of at least 6 feet.
"The 6-foot distancing requirement has probably been the single costliest mitigation tactic we've employed in response to COVID," Gottlieb said.
The unfortunate consequence of that miscalculation, Gottlieb explained, was that it "caused us to underestimate the utility of high-quality masks in reducing transmission" of COVID-19.