U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the entire Trump administration is supportive of facial coverings to stem the spread of COVID-19, although he stopped short of calling for a federal mandate to wear masks.
“I think we’re letting the politics and the policy get in the way of the actual practice,” Adams told “Fox & Friends” in an interview on July 20. “I want everybody to know that the science tells us right now that, with the high degree of asymptomatic spread—up to 50 percent of people are spreading coronavirus without knowing that they have it, that’s what asymptomatic or presymptomatic means—that face coverings are a way that we can reopen and that we can stay open.”
A federal order mandating facial coverings would require a “federal enforcement mechanism” akin to federal troops being deployed in Oregon in response to protest-related violence, Adams said. He said that instead of forcing people to wear masks, he would rather help people understand the benefits of wearing facial coverings.
“If you’re going to have a mandate, those work best at state and local levels,” Adams said. “You have the ability to work with people, educate them, and not let them feel like there’s an outside entity trying to tell them what to do in a country where people very much rely on their freedom.”
White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a recent interview that state and local leaders should ramp up their efforts to encourage the use of masks.
“I would urge the leaders—the local political leaders in states and cities and towns—to be as forceful as possible in getting your citizenry to wear masks,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with the Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
The surgeon general said members of the administration are “all on the same page” regarding the benefits of mask-wearing, and cited President Donald Trump’s recent comments in support of donning facial coverings.
“We believe [masks] are one of the most effective ways to open our country, along with making sure we’re practicing social distancing and making sure we’re practicing good hygiene,” Adams said in the interview.
Last week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said in a statement that masks are one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of the disease.
“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” Redfield said. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus—particularly when used universally within a community setting.”
Trump has repeatedly resisted imposing a federal mask-wearing mandate, saying in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” that “I want people to have a certain freedom and I don’t believe in that, no.”
Still, the president said he is “a believer in masks,” adding, “I think masks are good.”