In a Saturday interview, former White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke out in defense of masking up amid today's rising COVID cases.
In the event that masks are again recommended, he is "concerned that people will not abide by recommendations," he said in the interview.
"I would hope that if we get to the point that the volume of cases is such and organizations like the CDC recommends – CDC does not mandate anything – recommends that people wear masks, I would hope that people abide by that recommendation and take into account the risks to themselves and their families," Fauci told CNN.
Fauci, who also served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health until December 2022, also called into question a January 2023 Cochrane study that found masking to be ineffective.
"When you’re talking about the effect on the pandemic as a whole, the data is less strong," Fauci said.
"But when you talk about an individual basis of someone protecting themselves … there’s no doubt that there’s many studies that show that there is an advantage [to masks]."
Merle Hombrebueno, left, and Gerlie Pelagio, right, are wearing a face mask in Union Station on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, in Los Angeles, CA. COVID-19 making a comeback in California. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
The Cochrane study, led by 12 researchers from esteemed universities around the world, compared the use of medical/surgical masks to wearing no masks.
The review found that "wearing a mask may make little to no difference in how many people caught a flu-like illness/COVID-like illness (nine studies; 276,917 people); and probably makes little or no difference in how many people have flu/COVID confirmed by a laboratory test (six studies; 13,919 people)."
COVID hospitalizations increased 18.8% between Aug. 13 and Aug. 17 while deaths rose 17.6% between Aug. 20 and Aug. 26, per the CDC.
The numbers, however, remain far below the most recent spike in January 2023.
Weekly national hospitalizations were 15,067 as of Aug. 19; they were 44,410 in January 2023.
They peaked at 150,674 in January 2022.
‘Sweeping recommendations’ don’t work, doctor says
Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor, pointed out that while the CDC may not mandate masks, the agency’s recommendations have frequently led to state, local and business mandates.
FILE-A general view of the Center for Disease Control headquarters is seen in Atlanta, Georgia, United States on August 06, 2022. (Photo by Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
"I agree that high-grade masks in close quarters do have a use, especially if there is a lot of virus around and you are encountering people at high risk," he told Fox News Digital.
"But masks only work at all if they are worn properly."
He added, "A study from the University of Minnesota showed that 30% of people don't even wear them over their noses."
The doctor is also concerned about the negative effect of masking on young children, particularly in terms of socialization and learning.
"Also, young children often don't wear them properly, as Dr. John Walkup, chief of child psychiatry at Northwestern, told me in an interview," Siegel noted.
Siegel said he does believe that masks have a practical use in medical centers and doctors’ offices if there are a lot of respiratory viruses around.
"But sweeping recommendations, as Dr. Fauci appears to be suggesting, don't work," added Dr. Siegel.
The CDC’s most recent face mask order, which required all Americans to wear face coverings while taking public transportation, expired with the termination of the COVID public health emergency on May 11.
Although no U.S. states currently have mask mandates in place, several hospitals, schools and companies have begun requiring them yet again.