Jul 28, 2021 - Health

Ex-FDA chief predicts CDC mask guidance will have "negligible impact"

Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on CNBC Wednesday that he believes the updated CDC mask guidance will have a "negligible impact" on the spread of the Delta variant, arguing that "we're not going to get enough bang for our buck" by telling vaccinated people to wear masks at all times.

Why it matters: Vaccinated people's risk of serious illness is still extremely low. But because there are simply too many unvaccinated Americans, the Biden administration is asking vaccinated people to shoulder some of the burden by resuming wearing masks, Axios' Caitlin Owens writes.

  • The new CDC guidances recommends that vaccinated people wear masks in indoor, public settings if they are in parts of the U.S. with "substantial" to "high" transmission, among other circumstances.
  • Currently, 46% of U.S. counties have “high transmission” and 17% have “substantial transmission," according to CDC data.

What they're saying: Gottlieb, who said that he expects the surge in coronavirus cases from the Delta variant to dissipate in two to three weeks, noted that vaccinated people "just need to be mindful" that they can still transmit the virus — especially variants with high viral loads like Delta.

  • "Much more prudent guidance to people would be that if you are vaccinated in a high prevalence area, in contact with virus, you think you might have the virus because you have mild symptoms, be prudent, get tested, maybe wear a mask especially if you are around a vulnerable person," Gottlieb said.
  • "Whether or not that should then translate to general guidance for the entire population, I don't think that that's the case. I don't think we're going to get enough bang for our buck by telling vaccinated people that they have to wear masks at all times to make it worth our while," he added.

Go deeper: CDC asks the vaccinated to help save the unvaccinated from themselves

Go deeper