(WSVN) - While COVID-19 continues to surge in South Florida, the nation’s top medical expert has suggested that Floridians wear masks to help slow the spread of the virus and bring case numbers down.

In an exclusive interview with 7News Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he wants Florida parents to know that masks work.

“You always want to respect a parent’s decision about what they want to do with their children, but sometimes you have exceptional circumstances,” Fauci said. “I think if there ever was exceptional circumstance, we are living through it now with this pandemic, which is unlike anything we’ve experienced in over 100 years. It’s lasted now for more than 18 months, and sometimes, you have to say, ‘We’ve got to look at what is the benefit of the entire social construct, the entire population.'”

School superintendents in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties defied Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates in schools.

Fauci said masks help everyone.

“No, I’m not going to say anything to Governor DeSantis because he’s not interested, even a little bit, of what I have to say, so I will just talk to the people of Florida,” Fauci said. “Sometimes, you have got to make sacrifices and do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do and comply with things that, although you may not like them as an individual, they are very important for the preservation of health of the community.”

The discomfort of masks is not lost on him. However, it’s a small sacrifice to make considering those it may protect.

“I would try to explain to [parents] that although it’s uncomfortable to wear a mask, we all know that,” Fauci said. “Personally, I don’t like to wear a mask myself, but I do because with a purpose behind it is to protect yourself and to protect others. We have about 90 million people in this country who are eligible for vaccines that are not getting vaccinated.”

Fauci said the number of unvaccinated remains a problem because nearly 100% of the COVID-19 cases are of the aggressive delta variant. He said the vaccine’s effectiveness over time does not fully protect people.

“What we’re concerned about because of what we’re looking at in Israel is that over a period of time, they are seeing even more severe disease,” Fauci said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended a COVID-19 booster shot to help fight against the variants.

“There are two things we gotta do,” Fauci said. “We got to get the unvaccinated vaccinated to begin with, and we have to start having an orderly, organized rollout of booster shots for those who were vaccinated eight months or so ago.”

Fauci added things have been getting worse and better at the same time.

“In some respects, it gets better for the people who are vaccinated,” he explained. “We’re dealing with a moving target. It isn’t that recommendations are changing willy-nilly and discussions and recommendations and guidelines are changing. The virus has changed.”

Fauci added that, with the delta variant, those who are vaccinated can transmit the virus, which is why the mask recommendations have changed, because people can pass it to someone else, even if they feel OK.

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