CDC director seeks to clarify mask comments after Trump rebuke

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield on Wednesday evening sought to clarify his remarks earlier in the day about the importance of masks after President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act MORE publicly disagreed with his statements. 

Testifying at a Senate hearing earlier in the day, Redfield raised eyebrows by saying a mask is "more guaranteed to protect me" than a vaccine, arguing that a vaccine is not expected to work in 100 percent of people, while a mask offers everyone at least some level of protection. 

Trump, at a press conference later in the day, publicly broke with one of his top health experts, saying, "It’s not more effective by any means than a vaccine, and I called him about that." 

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On Wednesday evening, apparently seeking to clear up the issue, Redfield wrote on Twitter, "I 100% believe in the importance of vaccines and the importance in particular of a #COVID19 vaccine. A COVID-19 vaccine is the thing that will get Americans back to normal everyday life." 

"The best defense we currently have against this virus are the important mitigation efforts of wearing a mask, washing your hands, social distancing and being careful about crowds," he added. 

 

Redfield's statement does not say his earlier remarks were wrong, but it does seek to emphasize the importance of a vaccine. 

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Trump has repeatedly questioned the broad agreement among experts that masks work to slow the spread of the virus. He has rarely worn one himself and has spoken at rallies with hundreds of largely maskless attendees. 

The public disagreement between the CDC director and the president comes as Democrats and many health experts are increasingly concerned about political pressure on health agencies. 

Eleanor Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University, wrote on Twitter that it is not yet known whether a vaccine is more effective than a mask.  

"Without estimates of vaccine efficacy we will obtain from phase 3 trials, we cannot claim to know the relative effectiveness of masks versus vaccines," she wrote. "But we also don’t *need* to know the relative effectiveness. If we have a vaccine we can do BOTH!"