Fauci Calls Masks 'Not Really Effective in Keeping Out Virus' in Newly Released Email


Dr. Anthony Fauci said that masks are “not really effective in keeping out virus” in February 2020, according to newly released emails sent to and from the coronavirus adviser.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was responding to an email from Sylvia Burwell, president of American University and a former secretary of Health and Human Services.

“Two quick questions,” Burwell wrote in the email. “1. I am traveling to [redacted information]. Folks are suggesting I take a mask for the airport. Is this something I should do.”

Fauci’s response at 3 a.m. said that he didn’t recommend she wear a mask during her travels.

“Masks are really for infected people to prevent them from spreading infection to people who are not infected rather than protecting uninfected people from acquiring infection,” he wrote.

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“The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through the material.

“It might, however, provide some slight benefit in keep out gross droplets if someone coughs or sneezes on you.”

He added, “I do not recommend that you wear a mask, particularly since you are going to a very low risk location.”

Burwell also asked if the Chinese had “needs for support,” as one of her colleagues asked what kind of donations should be made.

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“Would money be better spent on diagnostics or vaccine work?” she asked Fauci.

He responded that her “instincts are correct, money is best spent on medical countermeasures such as diagnostics and vaccines.”

The Washington Post obtained the emails from spring 2020 through the Freedom of Information Act.

This exchange was just one of among 866 pages of emails obtained by The Post.

The emails show that Fauci had received about 1,000 messages a day at one point from colleagues, hospital administrators, foreign governments and random strangers.

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“I was getting every single kind of question, mostly people who were a little bit confused about the mixed messages that were coming out of the White House and wanted to know what’s the real scoop,” Fauci said in a recent interview with The Post.

“I have a reputation that I respond to people when they ask for help, even if it takes a long time. And it’s very time consuming, but I do [respond].”

The NFL Players Association medical director asked Fauci how to safely start the next NFL season, a documentary filmmaker asked to ride along with Fauci as he drove to work and a senior House Republican encouraged Fauci to “keep being a science truth teller” in the face of skepticism about the virus.

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith