Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, won’t be wearing a mask to the next Washington Nationals game he attends.
“I hope I get to Nats stadium soon. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to do that,” the immunologist — who the Nationals claim as a “super-fan” — told HuffPost on Thursday.
When he does, he plans to go without a face covering: “As the CDC recommendation says, when you’re fully vaccinated, you don’t need to wear a mask either outdoors or indoors,” he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines last week to relax mask mandates for fully vaccinated Americans, which caused some confusion.
“Unfortunately, some people interpreted [the new rules] as everyone can get rid of their mask, which is not the case,” Fauci said.
The CDC loosening its guidance on mask requirements for vaccinated people came as a surprise to many. Just 38% of people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated, though President Joe Biden has set a goal of getting to 70% by July 4. And although the administration has prioritized equal access to vaccines in Black and brown communities, there is still a persistent racial gap — only 28% of Black Americans and 30% of Latinos are fully vaccinated.
Black Americans’ vaccination rates are trailing whites in nearly every state, according to federal data. Fauci said he’s “not surprised, but a little disappointed.”
“One of the things that’s interesting is that when you look at elderly individuals, brown and Black people are right on the par with whites when it comes to vaccination,” he said. “It’s the younger Black population and the younger Hispanic population.”
Fauci said he hoped the COVID-19 Community Corps — volunteers in local communities who encourage friends and family members to get vaccinated — will reach out to vaccine-hesitant individuals and provide them with more information.
But there are other barriers that also hinder Black people from getting the vaccines, like a lack of paid time off from work or the inability to travel to vaccination sites. Some people have also said they’re skeptical of the vaccines because they were developed so quickly.
Fauci, however, wants to assure people that no corners have been cut.
“What led up to the ability to develop a vaccine in such a short period of time was the decades, literally decades, of investment in biomedical research, in the development of vaccine platform technologies, in the development of immunogen design to get the proper immunogen to induce a very powerful immune response,” he said. “So things did not start in January of 2020. We were working on this for literally decades before.”
And if you get vaccinated, Fauci emphasized, you can drop your mask and get back to safely doing things you enjoy.
“I haven’t even been able to follow closely my beloved Washington Nationals yet,” he said. “I haven’t been to a game yet, and I really want to go to one badly.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.