As the spread of the delta variant prompts new concerns and restrictions nationwide, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said this weekend he believes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was “premature” and “wrong” in easing the national mask mandate, and should move to immediately reverse its decision.
Adams, who served for nearly four years under former President Donald Trump, expressed deep concern about the CDC’s current “vax it or mask it” policy—recommending mask usage mostly just for the unvaccinated—in a flurry of tweets Saturday night and Sunday morning.
He acknowledged the CDC’s May decision to lift mask requirements in most indoor and outdoor settings for fully vaccinated people was based on “science” and “conditions” at the time.
However, the ex-top doctor argued both these factors have changed because of the more infectious delta variant, which is now the U.S.’s dominant strain and is driving a rise in cases and hospitalizations across the country.
Adams said the emerging data suggests the CDC should be advising to “vax it AND mask it” in areas with rising cases and test positivity “until we see numbers going back down again.”
“CDC was well intended, but the message was misinterpreted, premature & wrong,” Adams said. “Let’s fix it.”
Though virus-related deaths are still at a fraction of what they were in the winter-time, coronavirus cases have skyrocketed by over 135% over the past two weeks. Public health officials are warning of the risk to under-vaccinated parts of the country, which have already started to report rising hospitalizations. Spooked by the rising numbers, a growing number of cities and counties are reversing what had been a months-long trend of loosening restrictions, including Clark County, Nevada, home to Las Vegas, and Los Angeles County, which both reinstated mask guidances.
The concerns expressed by Adams are tinged by the context of his role in the Trump administration. While Adams himself frequently appealed to the public to follow safety precautions, the administration he advised has been widely criticized for its pandemic response, which included repeatedly downplaying the virus. One study published in The Lancet medical journal calculated 40% of coronavirus deaths could have been prevented with a better approach by the Trump administration.
In the Twitter thread, Adams invoked what he characterized as his own blunder last year advising Americans—along with Dr. Anthony Fauci—against mask usage at the pandemic’s start. “I felt it was the best call at the time, but now regret it,” he wrote, adding: “I’m worried the CDC also made a similarly premature, misinterpreted, yet still harmful call on masking in the face of [the] delta variant.”
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