IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Former surgeon general says CDC 'premature' to ease mask rules as delta variant spreads

Dr. Jerome Adams expressed regret over his dismissal of masks early in the pandemic and warned against repeating his mistake in the face of the highly transmissible variant.
Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams testifies during a Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing about how to counter vaccine hesitancy on Capitol Hill on July 1, 2021.
Dr. Jerome Adams, the former surgeon general, testifies before the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis on Capitol Hill on July 1.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

Dr. Jerome Adams, the surgeon general for most of the Trump administration, worries that easing mask guidelines was "premature" in the face of rising infections caused by the delta variant of the coronavirus.

Adams expressed regret that he and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's leading infectious disease expert, did not more strongly advocate mask-wearing at the beginning of the pandemic last year. Now he worries that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is repeating the mistake after it rolled back its guidelines for indoor mask-wearing.

"What @CDCgov said was based on the science & conditions at the time, and amounted to 'you're safe IF you vax it OR mask it,'" Adams tweeted Saturday. "Both the conditions (rising cases) & the science (delta variant) changed, but what people heard and held to was masks were no longer needed…"

The CDC said in May, after about a third of Americans had been fully vaccinated, that those who have gotten their shots "no longer need to wear masks or physically distance."

Adams made several comments early last year, on his personal social media and in television appearances, advising against mask-wearing. He even tweeted out a plea last year for people to stop buying masks out of concern that medical professionals would be unable to obtain proper personal protective equipment.

Adams said Saturday that he regrets his former messaging and that the CDC's decision to ease masking rules was similarly "misinterpreted, premature, & wrong."

"Now you have health officials, cities & counties (eg LA County), & likely soon states issuing guidance in direct conflict w/ the mask guidance @CDCgov issued a month ago. The sooner CDC says we were wrong, & hits the reset button, the better," Adams said. "Trust me- I know more than anyone."

Public health officials in Los Angeles County reinstated a mandate for indoor mask-wearing last week, calling it an "all-hands-on-deck moment" amid a surge of infections following the rise of the delta variant.

The mandate has already caused some confusion, as Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told residents that his office would not enforce it because it contradicts the CDC guidelines and is "not backed by science."

Although breakthrough infections can occur among those who are vaccinated, the vaccines are proven to be effective against serious cases of Covid-19 and hospitalizations as a result of the virus.

The CDC said this month that the delta variant, which is highly transmissible, is now the dominant coronavirus strain across the country. There is increased concern for young, unvaccinated people, who are being hospitalized at alarming rates.

President Joe Biden ramped up vaccine messaging to the youth of America, inviting "Driver's License" singer Olivia Rodrigo to the White House on Wednesday to discuss the importance of getting inoculated.

Fauci described the delta variant as the greatest threat to eliminating the coronavirus last month, after the World Health Organization declared it a "variant of concern" in May.