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Fauci: Travel Mask Mandate Ruling Could Set “Dangerous Precedent”

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 11, 2022. Photo: Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 11, 2022. Photo: Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci told CBS News Thursday that a federal judge’s “disturbing” decision to strike down the federal travel mask mandate could set a “dangerous precedent.”

Why it matters: The ruling led several airlines and transportation service companies to lift mask requirements despite a recent rise in COVID-19 cases across the country.

  • The Justice Department appealed the decision after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the public health order remains necessary.

What he’s saying: “The CDC will abide by the order of the court because it’s a legal obligation, but one of the problems we have there is the principle of a court overruling a public health judgment … is disturbing in the precedent that it might send,” Fauci told CBS News correspondent Robert Costa on “Red & Blue.”

  • “The CDC has the capability, through a large number of trained epidemiologists, scientists, to be able to make projections and make recommendations. Far more than a judge with no experience in public health.”
  • Prior to the ruling, the agency had extended the mask mandate through May 3, which Fauci said was “a very appropriate decision based on the evolving nature of the situation.
  • “Right now, masks are important when you’re having an increase in the kinetics of the outbreak as we’re seeing right now.”
  • “Whether or not that will result in an increase in hospitalizations, we don’t know. We hope not,” he said, noting that he has urged President Biden to follow CDC guidelines, which recommend all travelers continue donning masks.

The big picture: New COVID cases rose nationwide by about 35% over the last two weeks, Axios’ Tina Reed and Kavya Beheraj report.

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