Public/Global Health

Former surgeon general: CDC ‘fumbled the ball at the one-yard line’ with new mask guidance messaging

A former U.S. surgeon general is criticizing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention following the rollout of new federal guidance on mask wearing, saying the CDC “fumbled the ball on the one-yard line.” 

“I think this was an appropriate call based on the science,” Jerome Adams said on CNN Monday morning. “I think the play call was right, but they fumbled the ball at the one-yard line in terms of communicating this to the public.”

Adams, who was a top messaging officer for former President Trump’s coronavirus response team, said many of his colleagues in public health described to him a feeling of being “blind-sided” by the new CDC guidance. 

“I think you miss the nuance about protecting yourself versus protecting an organization,” he said. “It was a little bit of whiplash for the American public in terms of them saying just a week before, keep your mask on and then all of sudden they’re saying now you can take them off.” 


Last Thursday, the CDC said it was changing federal guidance to reflect that anyone who has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, meaning two weeks after their second dose, no longer needs to wear a mask while both outdoors and indoors. 

People who have only received one coronavirus vaccine dose, or have received none, still need to wear a mask while around others and continue to practice social distancing, the CDC said. 

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said last week. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment, when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”

Several Democratic governors and public health officials have expressed confusion or frustration with the guidance, which relies on Americans to self-report their vaccine status.

Tags CDC guidance COVID-19 Donald Trump Face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States Jerome Adams mask mandate Masks Rochelle Walensky

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