Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Monday implored Americans to wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus and acknowledged he was wrong to discourage the use of face coverings in the early days of the pandemic.
“I’m pleading with your viewers. I’m begging you,” Adams told the hosts of “Fox & Friends” in an interview. “Please understand that we are not trying to take away your freedoms when we say, ‘Wear a face covering.’”
The impassioned appeal from the nation’s top doctor comes months after he dismissed mask-wearing as ineffective and potentially dangerous during the initial outbreak in the United States.
Earlier this year, Adams often warned the practice resulted in increased touching of one’s face and contributed to a false sense of security. That advice has since been walked back by administration officials, who now all urge Americans to cover their faces in public.
“We were wrong back in February and March based on the fact that we didn’t think there would be this high a degree of asymptomatic spread of coronavirus,” Adams said Monday.
But “once we realized that the science was different for this virus, we changed our recommendations,” he continued, adding that “moving forward, I want people to understand we’re all on the same page.”
Despite the scientific consensus in support of mask-wearing, President Donald Trump has long been reluctant to promote the personal mitigation measure, only covering his face in public for the first time earlier this month.
Trump, eager to restart the U.S. economy in an apparent effort to bolster his reelection bid, has also pointed to senior health officials’ past aversion to masks in an effort to discredit their expertise and dire assessments of the outbreak.
The White House has particularly sought to undermine Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, even disseminating to media outlets a list of statements he made earlier in the outbreak that could appear damaging in retrospect.
“Dr. Fauci said, ‘Don’t wear a mask.’ Our surgeon general, terrific guy, said, ‘Don’t wear a mask,’” Trump said in an interview that aired Sunday. “Everybody who was saying, ‘Don’t wear a mask,’ all of a sudden, everybody’s got to wear a mask.”
Fauci acknowledged last month that the administration was slow to endorse mask-wearing because of concerns among the public health community regarding a shortage of personal protective equipment in the U.S.