• Everyone by now should be familiar with important coronavirus tips like social-distancing and wearing a face mask. 
  • White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has stressed the importance of face masks, especially, for much of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • In a new interview, however, Fauci says this is one time you can take off your face mask and go about a particular activity.

Of all the coronavirus tips we’ve heard since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic some six months ago now in the US, one of the most essential has been the guidance to wear a face mask when you’re outside of the home and can’t socially distance from other people. This is why face masks are such a ubiquitous sight now when I’m doing my regular grocery runs to the Target near my apartment, and restaurants I’ve ventured into in recent weeks are requiring entrants to keep their face mask on as they walk to their table and anytime they get up from their table. And it’s why businesses like air carriers have clamped down hard on anyone who refuses to wear a face mask, with Delta Airlines compiling a blacklist of fliers who fight the face mask rule — fliers that Delta subsequently bans from the airline.

All that said, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci had a confession in a recent interview that might surprise you, given the fact that we’ve heard nothing but the steady drumbeat of reminders from the doctor and experts like him to religiously adhere to mask-wearing.

According to Fauci, who’s also the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, there’s at least one exception to the face mask guidance: It’s when you’re outdoors and only around people you live with (and whose health, presumably, you can vouch for) while also not seeing anyone else coming into your vicinity.

If you’re engaged in an activity under that framework, you can feel free to go mask-less, Fauci said during an August 13 conversation with Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo.

“When I see people out on a beach running with nobody around them — good for you!” Fauci said. “Do it! You don’t need to be locked down outside.” Fauci added, in the conversation you can watch above, that he wears a face mask around his chin as he talks with his wife while they enjoy a daily walk together (to be able to snap the mask back into place properly if anyone else comes near).

“If you’re walking with your dog or your wife or husband or somebody that you’re in the house with anyway, and you’re not going to stay separated from them, then just do it,” he said. However, he adds, “I see someone coming, I go like that,” demonstrating the movement of pulling his mask back into place.

Fauci was making the point within the larger context of something the US is going to try to increasingly do during this in-between time before a vaccine materializes. We have to figure out how to go about normal life again, within the context of coronavirus safety measures. We can’t stay hiding under the bed for the next several months, in other words. People erroneously think that “either you’re going to lock yourself in a closet or you’re going to be out partying with no mask,” Fauci said, decrying that kind of binary thinking. Which is why we’ve been hearing him say things like this, that you can go maskless in certain outdoor settings, in addition to addressing activities like voting — Americans should be able to safely do that in-person, as long as the proper precautions are followed, Fauci says.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.