Fauci 'respectfully disagrees' that masks are a 'choice': 'Infection is impacting everyone'

The United States on Thursday recorded almost 80,000 new COVID-19 cases

White House Chief Health Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has rejected the idea that face masks are a "personal choice" in the face of the increasingly severe delta variant of the coronavirus

The United States on Thursday recorded almost 80,000 new COVID-19 cases – well below the January peak of nearly 300,000 new daily cases, but a stark rise from a month ago when daily cases were under 10,000. 

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While the number of those cases driven by the more transmissible delta variant is not clear, the CDC advised in early July that the variant was likely the dominant strain in the U.S. The CDC once again advised masks whenever individuals are inside shared spaces, but many people have resisted the call to wear masks, saying they have a right to choose whether to wear one. 

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"I respectfully disagree with them," Fauci said on ABC’s "This Week." "There are things that are individual responsibilities that one has, and there are things that have to do with you individually which also impact others, and the spread of infection that we’re seeing now … is impacting everyone in the country." 

"Although you want to respect a person’s individual right, when you’re dealing with a public health situation, and we are in fact in a very serious public health challenge here …  a person’s individual decision to not wear a mask not only impacts them … but you very well may infect another person who may be vulnerable," he added. 

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Health officials have maintained that the best way to fully remove the country from the pandemic – and, by default, end any mask mandate – is to continue pushing to vaccinate the nation’s population. 

The White House on Friday touted a massive push that has seen the number of new vaccinations administered slowly rise over the past two weeks. 

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While the hospitalization rate has surged in the two weeks as well, with Florida alone recording 3,849 hospitalizations on July 17 and 21,683 new cases on Friday. Nationally, almost all hospitalizations – around 97% – have been of unvaccinated individuals. 

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has resisted mandatory mask mandates and vaccine requirements and on Friday he barred school districts from requiring students to wear masks when classes resume next month.

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"From the standpoint of illness, hospitalization and suffering death, the unvaccinated are the much more vulnerable because the vaccinated are protected against serious illness for the most part," Fauci explained. "But when you look at the country as a whole, the unvaccinated by not being vaccinated are allowing the propagation and spread of the outbreak, which ultimately impacts everyone."