The White House Covid chief said he would have urged harsher restrictions much earlier in the pandemic

Senior coronavirus adviser Anthony Fauci said that if he had another chance to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, he would have pressed for stricter containment policies in the initial phase of the outbreak and acted with more urgency.

Speaking to the Hill for an interview on Monday, Fauci was asked what he and other health officials might have done differently with the benefit of hindsight, answering “a lot of things.” 

“If I knew in 2020 what I know now, we would do a lot differently, because back then we were not sure of a number of things,” he said, adding that “there would have been much, much more stringent restrictions in the sense of very, very heavy encouragement of people to wear masks, physical distancing, what have you.”

Fauci went on to explain that the “insidious nature of spread in the community” should have stoked “much more of an alarm,” noting experts at the time “did not fully appreciate” that individuals without symptoms could still pass the virus to others. 

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“We know now, two and a half years later, that anywhere from 50 to 60% of the transmission occurs from someone without symptoms,” he continued.

While the White House health adviser has since endorsed a variety of containment measures, such as lockdowns and masking mandates, his initial response to the pandemic was more subdued, urging Americans not to panic and even discouraging the use of face coverings early on. Fauci is now a vocal advocate of masking, in line with more recent federal guidelines, though he told the Hill that only “high quality” and “well-fitted” masks can do much to stem the spread of the virus.

“Right now, we are very, very clear that masks do work in prevention of acquisition and transmission. But you’ve got to get a well-fitted mask that is of a high quality. And the two we know are high quality are N95 and KN95,” he said.