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Dr. Jerome Adams: CDC change of course on masks was right decision

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday reversed course, recommending even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in areas where the coronavirus is surging. The agency also says all teachers, staff, students and visitors should be wearing masks in school right now.

The new guidance comes as nearly two-thirds of all U.S. counties are considered to have a substantial or high transmission. The Indiana State Department of Health reported more than 1,000 new cases on Tuesday. And hospitalizations are above 700 for the first time since May.

The CDC says the delta variant has the ability to spread among vaccinated people, and right now it makes up at least 83% of new cases across the country.

Following the CDC announcement, the Marion County Public Health Department said it also recommends everyone to wear masks indoors.

Dr. Jerome Adams, former U.S. surgeon general and WISH-TV medical expert, spoke to Phil Sanchez about the updated guidance.

So you’ve been calling for this for the past couple of weeks, so clearly you think this is the right move?

“It’s absolutely the right move. Public health officials needed this cover from the CDC. School boards needed this cover from the CDC. Two main things that people should know, No. 1, if you were in an area of substantial or high transmission — and right now that’s Marion County and every county surrounding Marion County. The CDC recommends that you wear masks when you’re in public settings indoors. No. 2, the CDC recommended — and this is really the biggie for me — that everyone in K-12 schools wear masks moving forward until we can get this pandemic a little bit better under control,” Adams said.

The CDC is also calling for universal masking for students and teachers. Your thoughts on that?

“Well, I think it’s the right move because at the end of the day, and the CDC explained this in their briefing, 30% of people who are eligible to be vaccinated in that 12 – to 17-year-old age range are vaccinated, which means 70% are not. Everyone under 12 is unvaccinated. And so you’ve got an environment where the majority of the people are unvaccinated, and you’ve got cases spiraling out of control. So the CDC did what they felt was best, what was scientifically supported and what gives, again, officials cover to help them get back in control again,” Adams said.

Are you concerned that this could backfire and dissuade unvaccinated people from getting the vaccine?

“Well here’s the thing, Phil, at the end of the day, the CDC originally thought that saying you could stop wearing masks if you were vaccinated would encourage people to get vaccinated, and it didn’t. And so they had to change course because of the Delta variant and they had to change course because, quite frankly, people didn’t respond to that incentive and, in fact, everyone took off their masks and actually put us more at risk,” Adams said.

When can we expect to finally put our masks away?

“Well when we get our vaccination levels up. We’ve always said and heard that when we get vaccinations community-wide up to about 70 or 80%, we should be able to contain this virus. We still have less than half of the United States, in almost all areas, fully vaccinated and that’s what’s putting us at risk. So the No. 1 thing viewers need to know is that the way we get out of this is by getting vaccinated,” Adams said.