The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that masks are the most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — even more effective than a vaccine.
Director Robert Redfield, testifying before a Senate committee, urged everyone in America to wear masks in public, saying the pandemic could be controlled in six to 12 weeks if everyone complied.
“These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have,” Redfield said. “And I will continue to appeal to all Americans, all individuals in our country, to embrace these face coverings. I’ve said it, if we did it for six, eight, 10, 12 weeks, we’d bring this pandemic under control. These, actually — we have clear scientific evidence that they work, and they are our best defense.
“I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine, because immunogenicity may be 70% and if I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine is not going to protect me. This face mask will,” Redfield continued.
The messaging from the federal government about face masks has been — and continues to be — all over the map. In February, Redfield testified before Congress and was specifically asked if healthy people should wear masks.
Redfield answered, “no.”
Redfield and other top public health officials have repeatedly stressed to the public that the purpose of masks is not self-protection, but rather preventing a person from spreading the virus to others. His Wednesday comments directly contradict that and could further undermine public confidence in a pending vaccine that people are already wary of.
“Most face masks do not effectively filter small particles from the air and do not prevent leakage around the edge of the mask when the user inhales.” Redfield wrote on Aug. 25. “The role of face masks is for patient source control, to prevent contamination of the surrounding area when a person coughs or sneezes.”
Adding to the confusion, President Donald Trump defended the fact that he doesn’t often wear masks during a televised town hall event Tuesday night.
“A lot of people don’t want to wear masks,” Trump said. “A lot of people think that masks are not good.”
Immediately before he said that, the president criticized Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who has no governmental role or authority, for not instituting a national mask mandate.
“Well, I do wear them when I have to, and when I’m in hospitals and other locations,” Trump said. “But I will say this: They said at the Democrat convention they’re going to do a national mandate. They never did it, because they’ve checked out and they didn’t do it. And a good question is, you ask why Joe Biden-they said we’re going to do a national mandate on masks.”