Fauci expresses support for national mask mandate for the first time amid record-setting coronavirus infections

Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said for the first time Wednesday that the United States needs a nationwide mask mandate to combat the rising tide of coronavirus infections. In interviews with CNBC and the Journal of the American Medical Association, Fauci expressed regret that masks haven’t been adopted more widely and suggested that doing so would be key to avoiding another round of shutdowns.

Anthony S. Fauci wearing a suit and tie: Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, testifies during a Senate hearing in September.

© Graeme Jennings/AP
Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, testifies during a Senate hearing in September.

Here are some significant developments:

  • With five days to go before Election Day on Nov. 3, President Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden have crystallized opposing messages on a pandemic that has affected most aspects of American life, including voting.
  • Germany and France announced month-long lockdowns on Wednesday, saying that the resurgence of infections had spiraled out of control.
  • Health officials say the White House called off an investigation into its coronavirus outbreak, while failing to notify people who may have been exposed.
  • The United States has seen a steady increase in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations for almost the entire month of October, with record-high numbers of cases reported in the past week, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. More than 80,000 new cases were recorded on Wednesday, pushing the total number of infections past 8.8 million. At least 227,000 fatalities have been linked to the virus since February.
  • A federal government briefing document obtained by The Washington Post suggests that a traveler could theoretically drive all the way from the Canadian border to northern Mississippi without ever leaving a “hot-spot” county.

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1:31 AM: Fauci expresses support for national mandate for the first time, says he hasn’t spoken to Trump in ‘quite a while’

Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, appeared to call for a nationwide mask mandate for the first time on Wednesday in a series of interviews with the CNBC and the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has historically been reluctant to advocate for such a sweeping policy, telling reporters last month that a national mandate “probably would not work.” But in a Friday interview with CNN, he suggested that the federal government should “maybe” consider instituting one.

Questioned about his apparent hesitation on Wednesday by CNBC’s Shepard Smith, Fauci said that he had hoped “we could pull together as a country” and recognize the importance of mask-wearing without the government getting involved. “We haven’t,” Smith interrupted, before going on to ask Fauci if it was time for a national mandate.

“You know, yes,” Fauci replied. “If we don’t get one, I would hope that the mayors and the governors do it locally.”

President Trump has resisted calls to issue a nationwide mask mandate, something that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has said he would do if elected. Pressed further by Smith, Fauci acknowledged that he had not spoken to Trump in “quite a while.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Fauci was also asked about his comments regarding a potential mask mandate during a question-and-answer session hosted on JAMA’s YouTube channel. He emphasized that getting 90 percent or more of the population to wear masks could be a key to avoiding future lockdowns.

Calling the prospect of a new round of economically-bruising stay-at-home measures “almost radioactive,” Fauci said that Americans would have to “at least do the fundamental, basic things” if they want to avoid additional shutdowns. “What we can’t have is this very inconsistent wearing that you see, where some states absolutely refuse to wear a mask,” he said.

By: Antonia Noori Farzan

1:01 AM: We’re all making choices in the pandemic. Many of us are lying about them.

On a recent Saturday that Rebecca Wolfe said she spent at home, she was strolling along the beach with a man she met on Hinge — but as far as she’s concerned, her mother doesn’t need to know that. Given that health experts emphasize maintaining our distance from each other during the pandemic, Wolfe plans to keep the outing to herself.

Everyone has different levels of risk tolerance, and opinions vary widely about what kinds of activities are acceptable right now: Is outdoor seating at a restaurant okay? What if we wear masks except when we’re eating? How about if we’re the only family there?

We all make our own choices. Many of us are just lying about them.

Read the full story

By: Marisa Iati

12:29 AM: A spice boom has left manufacturers scrambling, and packaging materials can’t keep up

The most sought-after at times have been as costly as precious metals. Their allures set world exploration in motion, fueled sailing expeditions around the Cape of Good Hope, precipitated the establishment of colonies. And now, more than 4,000 years after the initial fervor, we are living through a new spice boom.

The pandemic has had dramatic effects on the food system, ingredients ping-ponging between surfeit and scarcity. Broken supply chains have resulted in the dumping of milk and eggs, and the rotting of produce in the fields, even as grocery stores have seen shortages of things such as meat, flour and yeast. But spices have been a bright spot, a category steadily increasing in demand since the virus took hold, with plastic and glass container manufacturers straining to keep up.

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By: Laura Reiley

12:22 AM: New Jersey school district promises to continue snow-day tradition despite virtual learning

a group of people riding on the snow: Linden Tarrant, 9, takes part in a large snowball fight in Dupont Circle in January 2016.

© Matt McClain/The Washington Post
Linden Tarrant, 9, takes part in a large snowball fight in Dupont Circle in January 2016.

In the springtime, school-age children across the United States lost out on sports, proms and graduations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Come winter, the snow day is on track to become another beloved tradition struck down by the virus.

When students don’t have to leave home for instruction, aided by the rapid embrace of remote learning, inclement weather becomes inconsequential for school-day operations.

In one New Jersey district, however, school administrations have staked out a firm pro-snow-day stance.

“We have decided that few childhood acts remain unchanged due to covid-19 and we will maintain the hope of children by calling actual snow days due to inclement weather,” the Mahwah Township Public School District said in a statement Tuesday. “Snow days are chances for on-site learners and virtual learners to just be kids by playing in the snow, baking cookies, reading books and watching a good movie.”

Read the full story

By: Kim Bellware

12:21 AM: State and local leaders order new restrictions amid autumn’s coronavirus surge

State and local officials in Colorado, Idaho, Massachusetts and Texas are imposing new restrictions on schools, businesses and social gatherings, responding to the fall surge in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations that threatens much of the country with a health emergency resembling what struck the Northeast in the spring.

Although this has been a highly politicized pandemic, some of the new restrictions are arising with no regard for local political inclinations: Liberal-leaning El Paso is under a nightly curfew, while conservative-leaning Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on Tuesday passed a mask mandate.

One forecast published Wednesday, by modelers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, warned that the virus is spreading at exponential rates across at least half of the states and that only Hawaii will not see a rise in hospitalizations during the next four weeks.

Read the full story

By: Joel Achenbach and Karin Brulliard

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