Fauci says it’s ‘quite possible’ that people would wear masks during high seasons of respiratory illness
LOS ANGELES - Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday suggested that it’s "quite possible" that people might want to mask up during seasons in which the chances of catching a respiratory illness is high.
During an interview on "Meet the Press," Fauci said wearing a mask simply lowers the chances of catching a respiratory illness like COVID-19.
He added that not only does the data indicate how effective face coverings are at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus but that it has actually helped keep the flu at bay.
"I think people have gotten used to the fact that wearing masks — clearly if you look at the data — diminishes respiratory disease," Fauci said.
"We’ve had practically a non-existent flu season this year merely because people were doing the kinds of public health things that were directed predominately against COVID-19," Fauci added.
As millions of Americans continue to get vaccinated for the novel coronavirus, many are wondering whether or not face masks will be a permanent fixture in the post-pandemic world.
In March, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that fully vaccinated Americans can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing.
But the CDC also urged fully vaccinated individuals to still physically distance themselves from others when out in public. The CDC also advised vaccinated people to get tested if they develop symptoms that could be related to COVID-19.
The agency also recently published a brief indicating small virus droplets can travel more than six feet under certain conditions, posing a risk for infection.
RELATED: Double mask: Fauci says wearing 2 masks may offer more protection from COVID-19
The science on masks amid the novel coronavirus pandemic has rapidly evolved, and researchers have continued to surface more and more evidence proving their effectiveness.
Dr. Fauci has previously urged people to consider wearing an extra mask, arguing that two is better than one.
In a January interview with the TODAY show, Fauci said, "If you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective."
"That’s the reason why you see people either double masking or doing a version of an N95," he added.
The CDC has never explicitly stated that people should double up on facial coverings, but the health agency says multi-layer cloth masks can block up to 70% of respiratory droplets that can carry the deadly virus.
"Multiple layers of cloth with higher thread counts have demonstrated superior performance compared to single layers of cloth with lower thread counts," the agency wrote in a report on cloth masks published Nov. 20, 2020.
During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, thousands of individuals and organizations answered the call to produce homemade facial coverings amid serious shortages of medical supplies and PPE at the time.
But researchers found that some masks were more effective than others, and the material used to make them matters.
While N95 masks were reported to achieve up to 97% filtration of unwanted particles, researchers found that some homemade masks demonstrated as little as 1% filtration.
Researchers at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center evaluated approximately 400 masks made by community volunteers in order to find which, if any, masks worked as well as N95 respirators or any other medical-grade surgical masks.
According to the study, the best design was that of a double-layer mask made of heavyweight "quilter’s cotton," consisting of a thread count of 180 or more. The inferior masks consisted of single-layer or double-layer designs made of lightweight cotton.
When the ongoing pandemic reached some of its deadliest levels, medical experts continued to push for the use of facial coverings but the act of wearing a face mask eventually became increasingly politicized.
The pushback on wearing a mask was repeatedly stoked by former President Donald Trump, who routinely refused to wear any form of facial covering in public, while downplaying the threat of the virus and previously insisting, contrary to evidence, that "it’s fading away, it’s going to fade away."
RELATED: Doctor demonstrates how face mask blocks respiratory droplets from spreading
Despite some people’s hesitancy on wearing face masks, one doctor’s widely-shared Twitter thread demonstrated the effectiveness of wearing a facial covering.
Dr. Richard Davis, who is the clinical microbiology lab director at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Washington, tweeted a series of photos that showcased two demonstrations aimed at understanding how effective face masks are at blocking respiratory droplets from an individual’s mouth, while also illustrating the importance of social distancing.
Using a standard triple-layer hospital issue surgical mask, Davis sneezed, sang, talked and coughed toward an agar culture plate with and without a mask. Davis noted in his Twitter thread that he sang Hamilton’s "Dear Theodosia" for the singing portion of the experiment. Agar culture plates are Petri dishes filled with agar, a gelatinous substance obtained from red algea to culture, or help multiply, microorganisms.
After performing each action, Davis said bacteria colonies formed in the dishes where the respiratory droplets emitted from his mouth landed.
"Bacteria colonies show where droplets landed. A mask blocks virtually all of them," Davis wrote in a caption for the post.
The images of the experiment showed that every action performed unmasked nearly covered each Petri dish in bacteria, while the dishes used during the masked demonstration were left nearly untouched. Sneezing and coughing left the most noticeable difference on the plates.
In the second demonstration, Davis showed how keeping one’s distance makes a difference in stopping the spread of respiratory droplets.
The Associated Press and FOX News contributed to this story.