US Surgeon General stresses importance of wearing face coverings to reduce spread of COVID-19

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams joined FOX 5 to discuss a spike in coronavirus cases, the use of face coverings and the latest on the country's response to COVID-19.

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"We're always concerned when people are getting together in large gatherings, not wearing face covering and not social distancing," the Surgeon General told FOX 5's Steve Chenevey regarding the July Fourth holiday weekend.

Adams said that while D.C.'s COVID-19 cases are down to around 50 a day, he's concerned for Maryland and Virginia where he says cases are around 500 to 600 per day – and could increase very quickly. "It's important for people to know that we have the ability to slow the spread if we wear face coverings," Adams said, adding that he believes wearing a face covering is the most important thing the public can do to advance the reopening process. Adams also advised anyone who was at a gathering and did not exercise public health precautions to get a coronavirus test.



Dr. Adams said imposing a 14 day self-quarantine for visitors in the D.C. region may be difficult to enforce because so many residents in the area have long commutes and cross state lines for work.

"What I do think we can do is very quickly level off cases and have them come down," he said. "Coronavirus can get bad really quickly – but I want people to understand that we can improve the coronavirus rates really quickly in the course of two to three weeks. There are studies that show you can decrease the spread of coronavirus by 60, 70 percent if you can get 80 plus percent of people wearing face covering when they go out in public."

Face coverings are essential, Adams said, in order to bring back things Americans love. "If you want football in the fall, if you want to see NFL football, if you want college football, if you want homecoming and prom, young people -- and we know that many of these cases are being spread by young people – the fastest way to get there is to wear a face covering or mask now."

President Donald J. Trump listens as U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams delivers remarks and urges citizens to wear masks in public at the coronavirus (COVID-19) update briefing Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of t


Adams said the authority to enforce face covering comes from the state and local levels – not the federal government.

"We aren’t going to send in the National Guard or the Army to enforce a national mandate. We don't have an enforcement mechanism to do that, number one," he said. "Number two, 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." Adams said he supports local and state mask mandates if they are put in place by the governors. "I think we have to help educate people. We've got to make sure that the enforcement mechanism is something that's not going to be overly onerous."

"People are more likely to cooperate if they know why they're doing it and if they actually know how they're going to benefit. And the way you're going to benefit people in the DMV is that we'll be able to open schools, open jobs, open worship if you wear face covering. I'd rather help educate you and have you choose to do it than to force people to do it."

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Adams, who is a father to three school age children, says he is for opening schools when it is safe to do so.

"I want schools to open because we know that when schools are open kids are less obese, there's less substance issues, they are more likely to be vaccinated," he said. "There are health implications of keeping these schools closed -- but we've got to do it safely."


"I think – this fall – it's going to be hard to have fans in attendance looking at the rates of spread we have right now. But again, this disease runs on a two to three week time course. Things can get bad quickly, they can get better quickly," Adams said.


Dr. Adams said we're still on a timeline to see a vaccine by the end of this year or by the beginning of next year. He stressed that -- just like with the flu vaccine -- people will need to accept and take a new COVID-19 vaccine for it to work. Adams said he and his department are working to engage people ahead of the release of a new vaccine.


"As Surgeon General I'm willing to work with anyone who wants to get the message out about how to stay safe," Adams said when asked if he has heard from Axl Rose following the famous singer's comments regarding the Trump administration stance on large gatherings. He said he hasn't heard from Rose but has worked with other celebrities who disagree with the administration – like Jose Andres – and would be open to working with the Guns N' Roses singer.


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