Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said on Friday that the country should consider implementing a first-ever national mandate requiring masks, to help control a surge in coronavirus cases across the United States that has become the most severe to date.
Appearing on CNN, Dr. Fauci said that enforcing such a mandate would be difficult. But with conditions worsening across disparate regions of the country, he said he could be inclined to recommend the dramatic measure.
“There’s going to be a difficulty enforcing it,” he said, “but if everyone agrees that this is something that’s important and they mandate it and everybody pulls together and say, you know, we’re going to mandate it but let’s just do it, I think that would be a great idea to have everybody do it uniformly.”
Most states have imposed mask requirements to varying degrees, covering different spheres — such as indoor and outdoor spaces — at some point during the pandemic.
However, a minority of states, including Iowa, have resisted issuing directives on maskseven as case counts have begun to climb to new highs. And even states and cities that have more restrictive orders in place tend to allow some exceptions, such as when people are exercising.
The White House has obstructed federal efforts that would have mandated masks in a more limited way, blocking an order drafted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month that would have required masks on public transportation.
But with more than a dozen states reporting more cases over the past week than in any other seven-day stretch during the pandemic, Dr. Fauci said that it may be necessary to have a more coordinated, national approach.
“I get the argument saying, ‘Well if you mandate a mask, then you’re going to have to enforce it and that’ll create more of a problem,’” he said. “Well, if people are not wearing masks then maybe we should be mandating it.”
Even as cases have risen to their highest levels yet in the United States, the White House Coronavirus Task Force has been meeting less frequently, Dr. Fauci said on Friday, appearing on MSNBC.
Recently, the group has been meeting weekly — less frequent than the sometimes daily meetings during the early spring, he said.
The last time that President Trump was at one of the White House coronavirus task force meetings, which are now virtual, was “several months ago,” Dr. Fauci said, adding: “Direct involvement with the president in discussions — I have not done that in a while.”
Vice President Mike Pence leads the task force, and relays guidance from the group’s medical experts to the president, Dr. Fauci said.