Former Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CNN on Tuesday that "we tried the honor system" when it comes to mask wearing "and it failed," adding that new guidelines for mask wearing "cannot come soon enough," as COVID-19 cases continue to spike in Florida.
"We need to understand: we tried the honor system and it failed," Adams said. "The [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance said, mask it or vax it. We know there are many more people out there going without a mask than the statistics suggest are vaccinated. That is number one. Number two, the delta variant is 1,000 times more infectious. We are seeing breakthrough infections, not leading to death or hospitalizations, but it could cause the spread we are seeing. We have to take that into account with masking. Public health officials are left in a lurch."
When asked if he would like to see both vaccinated and unvaccinated people wearing masks inside, Adams said: "Absolutely. Again, anytime you have mixing within crowds and you don't know if people are vaccinated or not, we absolutely need to protect people with these mitigation measures."
He then noted that unvaccinated people not wearing masks "means significant risk for my 11-year-old daughter and my wife who is going through cancer treatment or my mother who had a stroke last year. All increased risk because everyone is not doing their part."
Adams added, "I understand if you have questions about vaccinations. I never shamed anyone for that. If you choose not to get vaccinated, the guidance from the CDC says you should mask up. You should do that for your neighbor. We need people to understand we're going to see more closures. We will see more masking. We will see a return to the measures from last year. People are not coming together as a team and choosing not to get vaccinated or take other precautionary measures."
He went on to say that full approval for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine from the Food and Drug Administration "would be huge" for getting people vaccinated.
"Even when you see the [Veterans Administration] and health institutions saying they mandate vaccines, that is frontline workers," Adams continued. "I heard from a number of businesses who said, we would mandate the vaccines tomorrow if we had full insurance. People think it is about hesitancy. It is legally businesses told by lawyers, we don't feel comfortable mandating a vaccine … I want your viewers to understand there are scientists out there who believe we have more than enough evidence to have the vaccines fully licensed. We need an update."
He also said that according to his talks with former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, "the efficacy data is there to authorize the vaccines. The military would mandate the vaccines when we have full licensing," as would many local businesses and other locations.
"I believe businesses will do that as soon as we get full licensing. It should be a business decision, primarily because people will push back if it is the federal government saying, take the vaccines. The NFL is saying, we can't stay open and make money if communities and stadiums are shutdown. They are using more and more severe measures to get people vaccinated. When mandates become a tool that is legally backed up with a license, you will see that coming."
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