Key Words: Dr. Fauci says: ‘If people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating,’ as new U.S. COVID-19 cases hit 85,000

Dr. Anthony Fauci wants all Americans to wear a mask and — contrary to previous statements he’s made on the issue — he now favors a mask mandate in order to make that happen.

Fauci, a physician and immunologist, and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for the last three decades, told Erin Burnett on CNN’s OutFront Friday evening: “If people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating.”

“There’s going to be a difficulty enforcing it, but if everyone agrees that this is something that’s important, and they mandate it and everybody pulls together and says, you know, we’re going to mandate it but let’s just do it, I think that would be a great idea,” he said.

Anthony Fauci had previously stopped short of saying that the American people should be required to wear masks under a mandate.

Previously, Fauci has stopped short of saying that the American people should be required to wear masks under a mandate, but the recent spike in cases and surveys showing that people are still not wearing masks in public places appears to have shifted his stance on the issue.

As of Saturday, COVID-19 had infected nearly 40.3 million people worldwide, which mostly does not account for asymptomatic cases, and killed 1.1 million people. The U.S. still has the world’s highest number of cases and deaths (nearly 8.5 million and 223,998 deaths), Johns Hopkins reported.

The U.S. hit a new record of more than 85,000 new infections in a 24-hour period on Friday, according to the New York Times tracker. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 surged 40%, hitting the Midwest and Mountain West particularly hard, the paper added.

Speaking in Wilmington, Del. on Friday, Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden said, “First, I’ll go to every governor and urge them to mandate mask wearing in their states and, if they refuse, I’ll go to the mayors and county executives and get local mask requirements in place nationwide.”

Anthony Fauci told CNN’s Erin Burnett Friday evening that he is now predisposed to a mask mandate, a view echoed by the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. President Trump has declined to advocate for such a mandate.

CNN

The Trump administration has taken a mixed stance on masks. On Sunday, Twitter TWTR, +0.31%   blocked a post by Dr. Scott Atlas, one of President Donald Trump’s top health advisers, after he claimed face masks were ineffective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

“Masks work? NO” Atlas tweeted Sunday, followed by a thread of posts that misrepresented scientific findings on masks, which have shown broad agreement that they help to stop the spread of the disease, and are also an essential part of personal protective equipment for frontline workers.

Some 85% of adults say they wear a mask most/all of the time, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

The comments by Atlas, a Stanford radiologist with no background in infectious diseases, contradicts guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and Fauci.

Last week, Fauci said that vulnerable people should also think about wearing a mask in the home if they’re around people who have had contact with others, and advised people to avoid crowds, congregating indoors and suggested frequent washing of hands.

“Whenever we public-health officials talk about implementing public-health measures people think that we want to shut the country down,” he said. “We don’t want to do that. What we want to do is use public-health measures in a prudent, careful way to help us to reopen the country.”

Related:CDC says big Thanksgiving gatherings are a high-risk activity. Here’s how to safely visit family this holiday season

He also said that voting in person on Nov. 3 is just as safe as going to Starbucks, assuming other people wear masks. “I think it’s just as safe to go and get a cup of coffee in a Starbucks in which everyone’s wearing a mask and doing the things they should be doing.”

“You can’t enter into the cool months of the fall, and the cold months of the winter with a high community infection baseline,” he said. People will spend more time indoors, he added. “That’s when you have to be particularly careful about the spread of respiratory-born disease.”

Fauci is not the only public-health professional who is concerned about a “twindemic” of influenza and coronavirus during the winter months, making it more difficult to distinguish between symptoms caused by the respective viruses, and potentially overwhelming hospitals.

AstraZeneca AZN, +0.07% ; BioNTech SE BNTX, +2.69% and partner Pfizer PFE, +2.00% ; Johnson & Johnson JNJ, +0.11% ; Merck & Co. MERK, +3.94% ; Moderna MRNA, -0.43% ; Sanofi SAN, +2.97% and GlaxoSmithKline GSK, +0.57% are among those working on vaccines.

Also see: New Yorkers don’t have much hope that the city will recover from COVID-19 anytime soon

Some 85% of adults say they wear a mask most/all of the time, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in August, versus 65% in June. The gap between Democrats and Republicans on mask wearing narrowed to 16 percentage points, down from 23 points last spring, Pew said.

In the latest survey, 92% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say they usually wear masks in stores and other businesses, compared to 76% of Republicans and GOP leaners. In June, 76% of Democrats said the same compared to 53% of Republicans and GOP leaners.

“As rapidly growing case counts strained health-care systems across the South and Southwest this summer, more Republican leaders ordered citizens to wear masks to help slow the spread of the virus,” the report said.

The Washington, D.C.-based think tank said that the president calling mask wearing “patriotic” may have helped. “In July, President Donald Trump wore a mask in public for the first time and urged Americans to do the same, marking a change in tone from earlier in the pandemic.”

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Many workers have no idea their employers are offering this democracy-boosting perk, survey suggests

With the final president debate done, attention in the race between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden turns, more than ever, to the vote.

Major companies including Walmart WMT, +0.34%  and Twitter TWTR, +0.05%  are trying to make it easier for workers to cast their vote on or before Nov. 3’s Election Day, often by providing paid time off.

But many workers don’t know about the accommodations, a new survey suggests.

While 52% of companies are offering paid time off to vote according to their human resource staffers, only 23% of workers are aware of the benefit, a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found.

Almost one-third (30%) of human resource officials say their companies are providing time off with no pay, and 16% of workers said they knew about such a benefit.

“It’s not unusual for people not to be aware of the specifics they are being afforded by their employers, sadly,” said Johnny Taylor, president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, a professional association.

The survey comes during a hard-fought presidential election — and the coronavirus pandemic that’s up-ended work routines and added another layer of complexity to the voting process.

More than 22 million people had already cast their vote as of earlier this month, according to the Associated Press. That’s 16% of all votes in the 2016 presidential election.

The wait for early in-person voting has sometimes stretched on for an hour or more, according to media reports. A delay like that can take a real chunk out of a person’s work day.

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The findings come from two surveys, one of almost 500 human resource workers who are members of the Society for Human Resource Management. The other survey polled approximately 1,000 people.

Workers in one survey may not necessarily be working at the same companies as the human resource officials. Still, said Taylor, the lack of awareness might hold true even if the workers and HR poll participants worked in the same place.

Employees are often unaware that they’re entitled to all sorts of perks, he said. “Some of it is employees during the orientation process are just overwhelmed with data,” and more focused on key questions like pay.

Between 42% and 44% of surveyed companies offered paid time off to vote between 2017 to 2019, according to previous benefit surveys from the organization that used larger sample sizes.

Taylor was expecting even more companies to offer time off for voting this election season. But when he asked around, some colleagues told him they weren’t doing it because the opportunity to vote has been stretched out over so many days, and workers already had flexibility in how they used their time off.

Around 25% of companies told Mercer, the human resources consulting firm, they were changing their internal policies this year to provide more voting time. The most-cited tweak was increasing paid time off (10.5%), according to the survey released Thursday.

As of late August, more than 700 companies had joined Time To Vote, a non-partisan coalition of businesses pledging to facilitate their staff’s ability to vote. (That’s anything between a paid day off, lighter schedules or assistance with mail-in ballots.)

Over 200 companies joined the coalition over the summer, including Nike NKE, -0.00%, Dell Technologies DELL, -0.37%  , Visa V, -0.52%   and Bank of America BAC, +0.46%. Nike said its accommodations may include paid time off on Election Day, no meetings that day or offering resources for mail-in ballots and early voting.

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