U.S. Surgeon General Flip-Flops From “Stop Buying Masks” to Claiming “Masks Promote Freedom”

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In late February, no lessor healthcare official that the US Surgeon General took to Twitter to demand #Americans “STOP BUYING MASKS!” claiming that they’re not effective in preventing the general public from catching #COVID19. “The best way to protect yourself and your community is with everyday preventive actions, like staying home when you are sick and washing hands with soap and water, to help slow the spread of respiratory illness,” Jerome M. Adams said in a following tweet.

By the end of March, he had changed his authoritative stance on masks, stressing that people who are sick should wear a mask. He added, “If you have a mask and it makes you feel better, then by all means wear it, but know that the more you touch your face the more you put yourself at risk and know that right now the data isn’t quite there to say that there is a net benefit to the individual of wearing a mask.” In April, Jerome Adams, who is African American, came under serious fire from all sides after he appeared to single-out communities of color for not following #PresidentTrump’s coronavirus guidelines (after widespread liberal media coverage of the inequities of the virus’ impact on low income black and brown families). “We need you to do this if not for yourself than for your abuela. Do it for your granddaddy, do it for your big momma, do it for your poppop,” while suggesting that black and Latino families “avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs.” And now, two months later, the Surgeon General on Sunday urged Americans to wear face coverings amid the pandemic and outlined the case for why such behavior means more, not less, freedom.

Adams, in a tweet on Sunday, dismissed the idea that face coverings curtail freedom, arguing that wearing masks to stem the spread of COVID-19 is a small sacrifice that leads to a faster reopening and return to economic and social normalcy. “Some feel face coverings infringe on their freedom of choice- but if more wear them, we’ll have MORE freedom to go out,” Adams wrote in a tweet.

In a follow-up message, Adams acknowledged the issue of mask-wearing had its proponents and detractors and said it came down to individuals making choices about safety of others in the community. “Ultimately it is a choice we make, and I hope it’s made based on the best available/ current science, and a desire to do all we can to help others and ourselves/ our communities,” he wrote, adding, “Like vaccines, the more who participate, the greater the impact.” So, in the space of three months, America’s Surgeon General has claimed that “staying home [i.e. giving up all freedom] and not wearing a mask” is the best way to stay safe to now claiming “wearing a mask gives you more freedom.” Is it any surprise that the American public is increasingly questioning the omnipotence of the “science” and the “health officials” that have led us down this dark socio-economic path?

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Six weeks after the third edition, the world has changed again.
The pandemic is raging in South America, particularly in Brazil,
Ecuador and Peru. SARS-CoV-2 is under control in China, but in
Iran it is not. And in Europe, where most countries have weathered
the first wave and open borders to save a compromised tourist season, is now wondering if and for how long this biological
drôle de guerre could last.

Science has moved ahead, too. We have seen a more complex
picture of COVID-19 and new clinical syndromes; the first data
from vaccine trials; first results from randomized controlled
drug studies; encouraging publications on monoclonal neutralizing antibodies and serological evidence about the number of people who have come into contact with SARS-CoV-2. Unfortunately, we have also seen the first science scandal with fake data published in highly ranked journals. And we face new challenges like long-term effects of COVID-19 and a Kawasaki-like inflammatory multisystem syndrome in children.

For quite some time, prevention will continue to be the primary
pillar of pandemic control. In future waves of the SARS-CoV-2
pandemic, we will focus on the conditions under which SARSCoV-
2 is best transmitted: crowded, closed (and noisy) places and
spaces. Although hospitals are not noisy, they are crowded and
closed, and the battle against the new coronavirus will be decided
at the very center of our healthcare system. Over the next
months and maybe years, one of all of our top priorities will be
to give all healthcare workers and patients perfect personal protective equipment.

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