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U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams defended his and other health officials' reversal on whether people should wear face coverings to protect against the coronavirus, arguing on CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday: "When we learn better, we do better."

Why it matters: Adams has faced significant criticism for tweeting in February, "Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can't get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!"

  • Studies now show that wearing face masks "could result in a large reduction in risk of infection." The mixed messaging in the early days of the pandemic may have cost thousands of lives.

The big picture: Adams claimed that the science when he urged Americans not to buy face coverings suggested that "there was not a high degree of asymptomatic spread." He also cited fears about people hoarding personal protective equipment, a concern from early on in the pandemic when hospitals had a depleted supply.

  • Adams said the CDC, World Health Organization and a New England Journal of Medicine article in May all indicated that masks were not effective.

What he's saying: "It's important for people to understand that once upon a time we prescribed cigarettes for asthmatics, and leeches and cocaine and heroin for people as medical treatments. When we learn better, we do better," Adams said.

  • "Science is about giving the best recommendations you can and when you learn more, you change those recommendations. Our recommendations have changed and now people of America — important to know, you should wear a face covering."

Go deeper: Where the science stands on using face masks against coronavirus

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Oct 21, 2020 - Health

The overwhelming aftershocks of the pandemic

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The coronavirus pandemic will wreak havoc on the U.S. health care system long after it ends — whenever that may be.

Why it matters: The pre-pandemic health care system was already full of holes, many of which have been exposed and exacerbated over the past several months, and many Americans will be stuck with that system as they grapple with the long-term consequences of the pandemic.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries — Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca vaccine.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.
Oct 20, 2020 - Health

California issues more rigid COVID-19 guidelines for theme park re-openings

Photo: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

California health officials on Tuesday told theme parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood that they can reopen once daily coronavirus cases in their respective counties drop below one per 100,000 people.

Why it matters: Disney and Universal, both of which hoped to reopen when their counties reached "moderate" spread, have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Deadline reported that Universal Studios Hollywood laid off over 2,200 employees since July and Disney laid off 28,000 employees in September.