Dr. Fauci recommends people wear cloth masks in public, urges caution on coronavirus treatments

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White House coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday that the general public should be wearing cloth masks if they cannot keep a safe distance from others.

"The better part of valor when you’re out and you can’t maintain that six-foot distance is to wear some type of facial covering. An important point to emphasize though is that should never take away the availability of the masks that are needed for the health care providers who are in real present danger. So this is an addition to the physical separation, not as a substitute for it," he said on Fox & Friends, explaining why the CDC has reversed course on the recommendation for people to cover their faces in public.

Fauci said the new recommendation is based on recent data indicating the virus can be spread between people who are simply speaking to each other.

While scientists are suggesting hydroxychloroquine could be the most effective alternative to treat the coronavirus,  Fauci cautioned against jumping to any conclusions without thorough research.

Fauci reacted to data collected by the medical platform Sermo that stated 37 percent of 2,171 physicians surveyed who treat COVID-19 patients “felt” hydroxychloroquine to be most effective in treating the virus.

“We don’t operate on how you feel, we operate on what evidence is and data is,” Fauci told “Fox & Friends.”

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Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration recently announced an emergency-use authorization for several drugs, including hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, despite a lack of clear evidence of their effectiveness.

A study published earlier this month by French researchers suggested that COVID-19 patients could be treated with the antimalarial medication and antibiotics in the battle against the novel coronavirus.

Fauci said that although there is a suggestion that the study shows the drug could be beneficial, there still needs to be more rigorous studies to prove the drug’s efficacy.

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“I think we’ve got to be careful that we don’t make that majestic leap to assume that this is a knockout drug. We still need to do the kinds of studies that definitely prove whether any intervention is truly safe and effective," he said.

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“But when you don’t have that information, it’s understandable why people will want to take at any slightest hint that it’s effective and I have no problem with that.”

Fauci emphasized that hydroxychloroquine - which is used effectively to treat lupus and arthritis - has been approved for off-label use by doctors treating coronavirus patients, including in New York.

"Obviously this is a good drug for the many diseases you mentioned, what we don’t want to happen is individuals who truly need the drug with a proven indication don’t have it available," he said.

Fox News' Talia Kaplan contributed to this report.