Surgeon General Explains His March Comments on Masks by Noting We Used to Give People Cocaine

One of the most maddening things about the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic was the complete 180 on masks. In the critical early weeks of the crisis, the US Surgeon General and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention balked at telling the general public to wear face coverings, even as residents of other countries embraced them. It was only in April that the CDC reversed itself; although most cloth masks won’t do much to prevent you from catching the virus, studies have shown they dramatically reduce the risk of transmission to others. It’s hard to think about this and wonder what might have been—how many fewer cases, and how many fewer deaths, might there have been if there was a concerted national push to wear masks in early March?

In an appearance on Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” host Margaret Brennan read US Surgeon General Jerome Adams some of his old comments on masks. On March 8th, a maskless Adams told Brennan “masks do not work for the general public. On Twitter a week earlier, he said “Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS.”

“Do you regret saying that?” Brennan asked.

His response was…well, it was a response:

“It’s important for people to understand that once upon a time we prescribed cigarettes for asthmatics, and leeches and cocaine and heroine for people as medical treatments,” Adams said. “When we learn better we do better.”

It’s not often you see a public health official compare something he said in March to doctors prescribing cigarettes for asthmatics, but it’s also not often you see anyone in the Trump administration acknowledge they made a mistake.

At least he’s wearing a mask now.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate