U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams weighed in on the school reopening debate, saying the decision about whether to open isn’t as much about the actual schools as many believe it is, CNN reported.
“What I want people to know is the biggest determinant of whether or not we can go back to school actually has little to nothing to do with the actual schools — it’s your background transmission rate,” Adams said. “And it’s why we’ve told people constantly that if we want to get back to school, to worship, to regular life — folks need to wear face coverings, folks need to practice social distancing. Those public health measures are actually what’s going to lower the transmission rate.”
Transmission rate measures the average number of people who get infected by a person infected with COVID-19. A transmission rate below 1 is needed to show that the disease is gradually being contained, rather than continuing to accelerate in its spread.
Adams acknowledged that the COVID-19 risk to children is low but said minimizing transmission of the virus is important to protect teachers, staff, and parents/guardians.
“We know the risk is low to the actual students. But we know they can transmit to others,” Adams said. “We need to take measures to make sure we protect those who are vulnerable either because they are older or they have chronic medical conditions.”
According to Statista, only seven states in the U.S. have a transmission rate below 1: North Carolina, Delaware, and Connecticut at 0.99; South Dakota and New Hampshire at 0.95; Utah at 0.92; and Maine at 0.85.
Montana has the highest transmission rate in the nation at 1.36. New York is among the states with the lowest transmission rates, at 1.03.
Possibly Adams’ most well-known contribution to the public COVID-19 response is his proclamation early in the pandemic that masks don’t work to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19 in the general public, so people should stop buying them in order to save them for health care workers.
That tweet is still active on the surgeon general’s Twitter page, currently accompanied by a profile picture of Adams himself wearing a mask.
Now, Adams is insisting that wearing masks is crucial to lowering the transmission rate, which in turn is essential in getting schools open. This assertion seems to indicate that either Adams was lying in February about masks not being effective, or he’s lying now about how important it is to wear them.