Jun 21, 2020 - Health

Former FDA commissioner urges public to wear masks: "It's really all we have"

Scott Gottlieb, the Trump administration's former FDA commissioner, told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that he thinks local governments will need to mandate face masks for the general public as infections surge in a number of states, arguing that they're "losing precious time."

Why it matters: With significant community spread in states like Florida, Texas and Arizona, some sort of mitigation is necessary in order to stop the outbreaks from tipping into "exponential growth" in the next week, Gottlieb said. And unlike in March and April, states are no longer going to be willing to shut down parts of the economy.

  • California, one of the states that has seen a spike in infections, issued a statewide order requiring people to wear face coverings in public last week.

Between the lines: Facial coverings have become part of a political and cultural debate, with few people seen donning masks at the Trump rally in Tulsa on Saturday night. Gottlieb dismissed the idea that masks should be a partisan issue, calling it a "collective action we can all take to help protect our fellow citizens."

  • "It's something that we can do, collectively, to try to reduce the spread. It's really all we have, and it's not a very robust tool at that. But it's a tool that we have and it's a tool that's been demonstrated to have an impact if everyone does it, or most people do it," Gottlieb said.

Flashback: Opponents of masks have pointed to public health guidance at the very start of the pandemic that did not advise individuals to wear facial coverings, leading conflicting messages.

  • Anthony Fauci has explained this by noting that health officials were concerned about potential mask shortages, and Gottlieb added that health officials were worried that "by telling people they could wear a mask, you're telling them they could go out."
  • "I think that could have been messaged appropriately ... We should have been recommending masks from the outset," he noted.
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