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Kate McKinnon plays Dr. Fauci on ‘SNL’ and tries to explain the CDC’s new mask free guidance

‘As you probably heard, we got some very good news this week. And I’m not just talking about JLo and Ben Affleck.’

Kate McKinnon played Dr. Anthony Fauci on "Saturday Night Live" during the show's cold open.
Kate McKinnon played Dr. Anthony Fauci on "Saturday Night Live" during the show's cold open.NBC

Following the major announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this week that the mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people was being eased, Kate McKinnon reprised her role as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, to help explain what it all means during the opening sketch of “Saturday Night Live.”

“It’s your boy Fauci, the patron saint of Purell,” McKinnon began. “As you probably heard, we got some very good news this week. And I’m not just talking about JLo and Ben Affleck.”

The news that the fully vaccinated could drop their masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings under the new guidance was seen as a significant step toward returning to post-pandemic times — but exceptions to the guidance, as well as confusion over how to distinguish the vaccinated from the unvaccinated, resulted in many expressing a great deal of confusion.

“Pretty great, right?” McKinnon continued. “But a lot of people had questions such as: What does that mean? What the hell are you talking about? Is this a trap?”

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And some infectious disease experts, while agreeing that the guidance was based on science, also questioned the timing of the announcement and how local governments and businesses would be able to enforce mask requirements from now on.

Others online pointed to the seeming absence of concern over the virus demonstrated by fellow Americans throughout the pandemic — wondering why the announcement was not postponed until later given “the lack of critical thinking skills and lack of basic human decency in this population.”

And so in a sketch that spoofed the nation’s health protection agency, McKinnon returned to play Biden’s chief medical adviser and attempt to explain the guidance — with the help of “a few doctors at the CDC who minored in theater.”

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What followed was a series of various reenactments aimed at demonstrating correct mask behavior — including what to do at a bar, on an airplane, and on public transportation. Yet they didn’t have the intended effect — with the sketches within the sketch going quickly off the rails, and McKinnon’s Fauci expressing befuddlement after several.

In the first scene, Beck Bennett plays a man walking into a bar opposite Aidy Bryant, an employee of the business.

“Do I still have to wear a mask indoors?” Bennett asked.

“You actually do not,” Bryant said, before adding, “as long as you’re vaccinated.”

“No, I am not,” Bennett said.

“Oh, then that’s bad,” Bryant responded.

“Well, I’m entering a bar at 11 a.m. Did you really think I was vaxxed?” Bennett asked. “Because that’s on you.”

“You’re right,” Bryant said. “I deserve COVID.”

But McKinnon’s Fauci, with a look of confusion and a smirk, said that’s not the “right takeaway” to glean from the scene.

“The real point is we have to trust each other,” McKinnon said. “So please, be honest and respectful.”

Another example featured Cecily Strong and Alex Moffat as two people showing what to do when part of a larger group or gathering.

“This is a pretty large gathering,” Moffat said. “Should we be wearing masks?”

“We don’t have to, because we’re outside the Capitol Building,” Strong returned. “Now, come on. Let’s get ‘em.”

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“Very specific example but accurate in terms of masks,” McKinnon said of the scene referencing the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

The concluding sketch featured several of the actors and was the “big finale,” giving a peek into what the future could look like — people vaccinated and no masks necessary.

“When we come together as a society, we can solve anything,” Bryant, part of the group, said.

“Now, let’s talk about Israel,” Bennett said — which is when McKinnon’s Fauci promptly took over.

“Okay, okay. That seems like a good place to end,” McKinnon said. “So in summary, please everyone get the vaccine and enjoy life with no masks.”

Watch the full cold open:


Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.