“There’s no downside to wearing a mask,” Admiral Giroir responded. “I’m a pediatric I.C.U. physician. I wore a mask 10 hours a day for many many years.”
Dr. Adams wore a mask during his entire interview on the CBS program “Face the Nation” even though he was being interviewed remotely from Indiana. He said measures like wearing face coverings were “critically important.”
Earlier in the pandemic, Dr. Adams had discouraged people from buying masks, in part so there would be enough for medical workers, and he had said “masks do not work for the general public in preventing them from getting coronavirus.”
On Sunday, when the host of “Face the Nation,” Margaret Brennan, asked if he regretted saying that masks were not effective in keeping the general population healthy, Dr. Adams replied: “Once upon a time, we prescribed cigarettes for asthmatics, and leeches and cocaine and heroin for people as medical treatments,” adding, “When we learn better, we do better.”
Dr. Adams, one of the highest-ranking Black officials in the Trump administration, was also asked about his recent comments that mask-wearing requirements should be enforced locally and not as a national mandate. He had said, “in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, when we have people being killed for handing out single cigarettes or for falling asleep in a fast food line, I really worry about over-policing and having a situation where you’re giving people one more reason to arrest a Black man.”
Ms. Brennan asked him on Sunday, “Are you saying that racism makes it too risky to mandate masks?”
Dr. Adams replied, “So, to be very clear, I’m not saying it makes it too risky. I’m saying, if we’re going to have a mask mandate, we need to understand that works best at the local and state level, along with education. We need people to understand why they’re doing it. We need people to understand how they benefit from it, because if we just try to mandate it, you have to have an enforcement mechanism, and we’re in the midst of a moment when over-policing has caused many different individuals to be killed for very minor offenses.”
With record numbers of cases in states like Florida, which on Sunday reported 15,000 new cases, the highest single-day total of any state since the pandemic began, both health officials were questioned about the administration’s reluctance to consider returning to a lockdown in some cities and states.