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

Updated 39 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 20,158,258 — Total deaths: 738,063 — Total recoveries: 12,388,686Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 5,116,791 — Total deaths: 164,137 — Total recoveries: 1,670,755 — Total tests: 62,513,174Map.
  3. States: Florida reports another daily record for deaths State testing plans fall short of demand.
  4. Axios-Ipsos poll: 1 in 2 has a personal connection to COVID-19.
  5. Business: Moderna reveals it may not hold patent rights for vaccine.
  6. 🏈 Sports: Big Ten scraps fall football season due to coronavirus.
17 hours ago - Health

Georgia governor: It's up to schools to enforce wearing masks

Gov. Brian Kemp at a press conference on Aug. 10. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday said the responsibility should be on schools to enforce a mandate on face coverings, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports.

Why it matters: Georgia is reporting the fifth-most coronavirus cases in the country, per Johns Hopkins, and the risk of spread in the state is high.

11 hours ago - Health

Axios-Ipsos poll: 1 in 2 has a personal connection to the virus

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

We've hit a tipping point in the pandemic: Half of Americans now know someone who's tested positive, according to this week's installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: In practical terms, this data shows it's everybody's problem now.