- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, reacted critically Tuesday to images of maskless crowds packed together in the stands of a recent college football game.

Appearing on CNN, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was asked whether photos from a Sunday college-football game in Florida depicted behavior appropriate for this point in the pandemic.

“I get folks want to go back to normal life,” said CNN host Jim Sciutto. “But when you look at crowds like that, do you approve of that, or is that just not smart?” he asked.

“I don’t think it’s smart,” responded Dr. Fauci, who currently serves as President Biden’s chief medical adviser in addition to leading the NIAID. “Outdoors is always better than indoors, but even when you have such a congregate setting of people close together – first, you should be vaccinated. And when you do have congregate settings, particularly indoors, you should be wearing a mask.”

The photos shown on CNN included several crowd shots from when Florida State hosted Notre Dame on Sunday in Tallahassee. Not a single person seen in any of the images appears masked.

More than 68,000 people attended Sunday’s game, or about 85% of the stadium’s capacity of 79,560, the Tallahassee Democrat reported afterward. Attendance was limited to 25% of capacity last season.

Face masks are vital tools for stopping the spread of COVID-19, the contagious and disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which is transmitted in respiratory droplets expelled from the mouth and nose.

“In general, you do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on its website, adding: “In areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.”

Nationwide, 47,728 new positive cases of COVID-19 were recorded Monday, according to the CDC. Among those, 10,162, or around 21%, were new cases reported within Florida, a state of roughly 21 million.

More than 53% of Florida’s residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, on par with the national average, according to the CDC. Vaccines are proven effective against severe illness and death.

Earlier in the CNN interview, Dr. Fauci said he expects “a lot more local mandates” will be enforced in the near future effectively requiring Americans to get vaccinated to enter private space.

“I think there are going to be organizations, there are going to be universities, there are going to be colleges, there are going to be sports events, travel events, where the rule is going to be if you want to participate – you get vaccinated,” Dr. Fauci predicted. “If not – sorry, you’re not going to be able to do it.”

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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