WASHINGTON — Top infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday he wears a mask as a "symbol" of what "you should be doing" during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I want to protect myself and protect others, and also because I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that that's the kind of thing you should be doing," Fauci told CNN.
When asked by host Jim Sciutto if his wearing of a mask encouraged their use, Fauci acknowledged masks aren't "100% effective" but are a "valuable safeguard" and part of "respect for another person."
Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a Washington, D.C. resident, said he walked around his neighborhood and saw it was "very clear" many people were wearing masks.
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Wednesday the city would start its phased reopening of businesses as early as Friday, though face coverings would still be required in public.
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Fauci noted Washington "still has a considerable number of cases."
Masks have become a political flashpoint as President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden sparred over the wearing of masks.
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Trump called a reporter "politically correct" for wearing a mask during a press conference in the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday and shared a post on his Twitter feed mocking Biden for wearing a face mask when he observed Memorial Day.
Biden hit back, calling Trump a "fool."
Wearing a mask "projects leadership. Presidents are supposed to lead, not engage in folly and be falsely masculine," Biden said on CNN.
Contributing: Savannah Behrmann