Experts Warn Mask Freedom Could Increase Common Cold and Flu

Kris Reddout, a 5th grade teacher, attends a Utah Safe Schools Mask-In urging the governor's leadership in school reopening during a rally Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Salt Lake City. Parents and teachers rallied at the Utah State Capitol Thursday morning to urge schools to enforce mask wearing and to …
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Specialist infectious disease doctors warned Tuesday freedom from masks could increase common cold and flu resurgence.

“I imagine it’s going to start expanding to all of the other states as well, as the mask mandates are lifted and as people start socializing more and spending more time together,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Helen Chu told the Boston Globe regarding respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a cold-like respiratory illness.

Chu continued, “Having that mask on prevents that type of droplet-based transmission pretty well.”

An infectious diseases physician Dr. Joshua Barocas also said masks play an important part in reducing flu activity, as seen at the beginning of the pandemic. 

“Most of us in infectious disease really attributed that to masks — not just masks, but the combination of masks, people working largely from home, social distancing, all of those measures that have been in place for the last year,” Dr. Barocas said

“I want to lower my risk of respiratory infection. I don’t really want to miss work,” Barocas explained. “And to me, wearing a mask is such low-hanging fruit that I’ll probably do it in a lot of social situations.”

Director of the Boston University Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Policy and Research Dr. Nahid Bhadelia also agreed patients should “consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor places.”

“I would advise my patients — particularly those with high-risk medical conditions, including immunocompromising conditions — to consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor places during flu seasons and during long travels in the future,” Bhadelia said. “I am likely to do the same.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci said May 9 it is “quite possible” Americans will wear masks seasonally to stop the spread of respiratory-borne viruses.

Shortly after Fauci’s statement, the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance stated fully coronavirus vaccinated people can “resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”

But Fauci has not always held that masks are helpful in blocking coronavirus.

Fauci said in March of 2020 on CBS that “Right now in the United States, people should not be walking around with masks… There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.”

Fauci, though, changed his mind later when asked on CNN in February why he thinks Americans might have to wear masks into 2022.

“Because it depends on the level of dynamics of virus that’s in the community,” Fauci said also noting in the same interview that when coronavirus spread goes way down, “and the overwhelming majority of the people in the population are vaccinated, then I would feel comfortable saying we need to pull back on the masks. We don’t need to have masks.”


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