BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – The nation’s top infectious disease doctor supports a statewide mask order in Alabama, calling it important “because there is variability in people taking [the virus seriously], or even understanding the benefits of a masks.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, joined Senator Doug Jones in a news conference Tuesday.
“Individual mandates, wherever they come from, I think are important because when people get a signal that you may or may not wear a mask, which means it may or may not be helpful, that’s a very confusing signal,” said Dr. Fauci, holding a mask up to his face.
“This I have here, is a cloth mask that clearly would protect me, so if you say it doesn’t matter whether you put it on or take it off, you’re giving a wrong mixed signal. The signal should be wear a mask. Period.”
Governor Kay Ivey extended the Safer at Home order through the end of July, but has been reluctant to issue a statewide mask order, saying in a news conference last week it would be “near impossible to enforce,” and that she shouldn’t have to force people to do what is in their best interest.
Dr. Fauci said mask mandates can have a “very important” impact in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
“When you look at what we can do we know works, it’s the use of masks and physical distance and avoiding crowds,” he said.
Over the past week, Alabama hit new highs in hospitalizations and daily infections of COVID-19. As the death rate lowered, so has the age range of those infected.
As of Tuesday afternoon, a majority of the people infected with the virus in Alabama were between the ages of 25 and 49.
Dr. Fauci said in general, young people do not have as serious consequences when infected, but warned, “that doesn’t mean that you can not get seriously ill.”
He said young people need to be concerned with their own health and acknowledge their responsibility to society.
“Even if you do not get any symptoms and you do perfectly well, by getting infected, by allowing yourself to get infected because of risky behavior, you are part of the propagation of the outbreak. You are part of the problem because you could, even though you feel fine, you could inadvertently and innocently infect someone else, who then inadvertently and innocently affects someone who is really vulnerable.”
He added, “Even though you didn’t know it when you got infected, even though you are perfectly innocent that you meant no harm, by getting infected, you are propagating this pandemic.”
Dr. Fauci said Alabama is at risk of getting into “an exponential phase” of cases, but said there is a “window of opportunity” to act to prevent the situation from getting worse.
“Its not to a point where it’s out of hand,” he said.
“So you have a window of opportunity here, that as a state, you should take advantage.”