US Surgeon General Says Wearing Masks Promotes Freedom

June 15, 2020 Updated: June 15, 2020

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams is urging Americans to wear face coverings amid the pandemic and has outlined the case for why such behavior means more, not less, freedom.

Adams, in a tweet on June 14, dismissed the idea that face coverings curtail freedom, arguing that wearing masks to stem the spread of COVID-19 is a small sacrifice that leads to a faster reopening and a return to economic and social normalcy.

“Some feel face coverings infringe on their freedom of choice – but if more wear them, we’ll have MORE freedom to go out,” Adams wrote.

He said wearing a face covering would cut down on viral spread, which would then lead to “more places open, and sooner!”

In the early stages of the outbreak, officials didn’t recommend mask-wearing; that included Adams, who, in early 2020, recommended against the general public buying or wearing masks.

“What the World Health Organization [WHO] and the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] have reaffirmed in the last few days is that they do not recommend the general public wear masks,” he said in a March 31 interview on “Fox & Friends.”

Adams changed his mind when the CDC modified its guidance on mask-wearing in April, with the agency citing evidence of increased asymptomatic spread of the virus.

“Cloth face coverings may prevent the person wearing the mask from spreading respiratory droplets when talking, sneezing, or coughing. If everyone wears a cloth face covering when out in public, such as going to the grocery store, the risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 can be reduced for the community,” the CDC wrote in its guidelines (pdf).

Adams concluded his tweet by saying: “Exercise and promote your freedom by choosing to wear a face covering!”

In a follow-up message, Adams acknowledged the issue of mask-wearing had its proponents and detractors and said it came down to individuals making choices about the safety of others in the community.

“Ultimately it is a choice we make, and I hope it’s made based on the best available/ current science, and a desire to do all we can to help others and ourselves/ our communities,” he wrote, adding, “Like vaccines, the more who participate, the greater the impact.”

His remarks come after a roundtable with President Donald Trump on June 11 in Texas, when Adams stressed the country has a positive testing rate under 6 percent and that data shows the nation is moving in the right direction.

Still, Adams cautioned that while the country has flattened the curve on virus cases, “that doesn’t mean that COVID has gone away, that it’s any less contagious, that it’s any less deadly to vulnerable communities.”

The country surpassed 2 million COVID-19 cases last week, with new hot spots emerging in states such as Arizona and cases rising in nearly half of states, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Some states that have moved quickly to reopen have not seen a surge, while others have seen an increase in cases.

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