Former FDA Administrator Scott Gottlieb, who served in the Trump administration, Friday pushed back on misinterpretations of a recent study on the effectiveness of masks against the spread of coronavirus after President Donald Trump's comments on the data.
"Masks are not a panacea, but they’re going to afford you a level of protection,” Gottlieb, now a CNBC contributor, said on the network's "Squawk Box." "In an environment where the alternative is having a raging epidemic that’s going to force some kind of economic dislocation, I’d rather try to get everyone in masks and I’d rather try to get them in high-quality masks because we know it’s going to slow down the transmission. It’s going to have an impact.”
The CDC published a study in September revealing that 85% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 said they wore masks often or always. Another 89% of people who tested negative also said they often or always wore masks.
Trump and others have used the data to question the effectiveness of masks, including on Thursday during a Fox Business interview and again Thursday night during his NBC town hall.
Gottlieb said people should not infer from the study that masks don't work. The study's key finding was that eating at restaurants increases the risk of COVID-19, with participants who tested positive being twice as likely to report dining out.
He added that one of the main reasons for growing coronavirus cases is family gatherings, where people feel comfortable and let their guard down.
Gottlieb on Friday also emphasized the difference between surgical-quality masks and cloth masks made at home. However, they are not foolproof and mostly protect infected people from spreading the virus.
The former administrator called on the U.S. to ramp up equipment production, particularly N95 masks, which he recommends, especially for teachers.
"(They) don’t have access to PPE in a lot of schools, high-quality PPE, and that’s a mistake," he said.
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