Former surgeon general on new mask policy: CDC "fumbled the ball at the one-yard line"

Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour

The Monday morning reviews are in and they aren’t good for the CDC’s handling of its new face mask policy announcement. The reversal in mask requirements for indoor and outdoor spaces is good but the messaging of the change was bad, according to a former surgeon general. CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, agrees.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky suddenly saw the light last week and announced that face masks are not mandatory accessories for fully vaccinated people. It doesn’t matter if that person is inside or outside, a face mask isn’t necessary. This official proclamation was welcome news, indeed, but the timing of it was suspicious. In the span of just a couple of days, Walensky went from telling a Senate committee that the CDC’s official policy on face masks remained in place on Tuesday to then announce the big change on Thursday. We later learned that Walensky signed off on the new orders on Monday but kept up the charade for the senators during her testimony on Tuesday. That kind of lack of transparency does nothing to encourage confidence in the CDC or in her leadership, either. The sudden announcement Thursday took everyone by surprise.

Former surgeon general Dr. Jerome Adams was interviewed on CNN this morning and said that the CDC fumbled in its communication efforts. There is much confusion on how exactly the new guidance will work with a population of both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Stores, for example, are grappling on if they should require masks or not, and what about their employees? There is also the question of how parents can best handle children too young for vaccinations, those under 12 years of age.

Watch the interview and then we’ll continue.

I’ll admit that I miss Dr. Adams. He was one of my favorites of Trump’s appointments. He made mistakes but they all made mistakes, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. Anyway, Adams is right. Everyone is confused.

“I think this was an appropriate call based on the science,” Dr. 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.”

Also not impressed with Walensky’s performance is CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. It’s interesting that a liberal like Gupta is in agreement with Adams, speaking out about his concern, too.

Gupta said the CDC “made a critical error here in surprising basically everyone with a very significant change.” He added that just days before the announcement was made, he spoke to senior leaders at the CDC who told him indoor masking would probably be the last thing to be lifted because “it is so effective and it’s not that hard to do in most situations — just to put a mask on.”

It is important for those calling the shots to explain how the two populations (vaccinated and unvaccinated) should proceed moving forward with their lives.

Another point of concern is the lack of guidance on how best to implement these new guidelines, and if the loosened restrictions could potentially increase the risk of infection for those who cannot yet get vaccinated and the immuno-compromised.

The announcement created a domino effect in the business world, prompting companies to announce that they would lift mask mandates for vaccinated customers in most cases. Walmart, Trader Joe’s and Costco, for instance, are no longer requiring vaccinated customers to wear masks in stores. But Walmart did send out a letter Friday noting, “masks will also continue to be required by some city and state ordinances, and we will follow those requirements.”

The CNN host was interested in pursuing the politicization of masks as it happened during the pandemic but Dr. Adams refused to take the bait. He went on to talk about a book he has coming out soon that talks about the pandemic and politics as he experienced it, apparently. The truth is that the left politicized masks and the COVID-19 vaccines – including both Biden and Harris saying they’ll hesitate before being vaccinated with a vaccine developed during Trump’s administration – but now that Biden is in office, the left is still desperate to blame Trump for problems they can’t seem to solve themselves. The left rarely acknowledges the success of Operation Warp Speed as it should and Trump’s aggressive pursuit of a vaccine for COVID-19 which turned into multiple vaccines being developed.

Speaking of the surgeon general, where is our current one? Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy holds the title now after Biden didn’t hold over Adams. Where has he been through the Biden days of the pandemic? Shouldn’t the nation’s top doc be offering guidance on such an important change? Meanwhile, I’ll look forward to reading the book coming out by Dr. Adams. His perspective of the pandemic and what happened in the political arena should be interesting.