Former surgeon general says CDC guidance on masks 'premature' and 'wrong'

Former Surgeon General Jerome AdamsJerome AdamsFormer surgeon general: 'Unconscionable' for states to ban mask mandates Former Trump surgeon general says politicians are 'taking tools' away from public health offices Pence urges young conservatives to get COVID-19 vaccine MORE said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance lifting mask recommendations for fully vaccinated Americans was “premature” and “wrong.”

Adams, who served in the role under former President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE, said in a lengthy Twitter thread that he feared the CDC made its decision prematurely amid the rise of the delta variant.

"Last year [Anthony] Fauci and I famously, prematurely, & wrongly advised against masks. I felt it was the best call at the time, but now regret it. I’m worried the CDC also made a similarly premature, misinterpreted, yet still harmful call on masking in the face of delta variant,” Adams said.

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The comment from Adams comes amid surges of coronavirus infections in the U.S. driven by the spread of the delta strain. These outbreaks have centered around areas with lower vaccination rates.

CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyOvernight Health Care — Biden defends push for vaccine mandates CDC: Unvaccinated 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 AmeriCorps partnering with CDC to recruit, train public health leaders MORE on Friday warned of a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” noting that almost all hospitalizations and deaths are of unvaccinated people.

But Los Angeles County and Las Vegas have both mandated residents wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.

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Adams compared the current situation to how federal guidance on masks changed last year.

The former surgeon general said that earlier guidance against masks was “based on the science & conditions at the time.” Even though the science changed, people held on to the belief that masks didn't work, he noted. 

“What @CDCgov said was based on the science & conditions at the time, and amounted to ‘you’re safe IF you vax it OR mask it,’” Adams said. “Both the conditions (rising cases) & the science (delta variant) changed, but what people heard and held to was masks were no longer needed.” 

Adams said, “The sooner CDC says we were wrong & hits the reset button, the better. Trust me- I know more than anyone.”

He added that the CDC should advise people to get vaccinated and wear masks in areas with higher cases of COVID-19 until numbers start to decline.

“CDC was well intended, but the message was misinterpreted, premature, & wrong. Let’s fix it,” he said.