Surgeon general: Data doesn't back up wearing masks in public amid coronavirus pandemic

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U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on “Fox & Friends” Tuesday that “the data doesn't show” that wearing masks in public will help people during the coronavirus pandemic.

Adams, a member of the Trump administration's Coronavirus Task Force, made the comment one day after President Trump said he sees a scenario where all Americans could be expected to wear masks in public "for a short period of time after we get back into gear."

Trump acknowledged on Monday that he did not yet discuss the idea with his task force and said it is "certainly something we could discuss."

“It's important to understand that we are looking at the data every single day and we make the best recommendations to the American people we can based on what we know,” Adams said on Tuesday.

“What the World Health Organization [WHO] and the CDC [The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] have reaffirmed in the last few days is that they do not recommend the general public wear masks.”

He then explained the reasons why.

“On an individual level, there was a study in 2015 looking at medical students and medical students wearing surgical masks touch their face on average 23 times,” Adams explained. “We know a major way that you can get respiratory diseases like coronavirus is by touching a surface and then touching your face so wearing a mask improperly can actually increase your risk of getting disease.”

Adams went on to say that wearing a face mask “can also give you a false sense of security." He added that "you see many of these pictures with people out and about closer than six feet to each other, but still wearing a mask.”

He noted that there are also consequences to wearing masks.

“We still have PPE [Personal protective equipment] shortages across the country,” Adams noted. “The WHO mentioned this in their statement so we want to make sure we are reserving PPE for the people who most need it. That's how you are going to get the largest effect because if healthcare workers get sick, they can't take care of you when you get sick.”

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Last month, Adams said Americans worried about the coronavirus outbreak shouldn’t buy face masks to protect themselves against it because the masks are ineffective for those without symptoms -- and the purchases deplete the supplies available for medical professionals.

“Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!” Adams wrote on Twitter, addressing fears over the spread of the virus in the U.S.

“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!”

On Tuesday Adams stressed that people who are sick should wear a mask.

He added, “If you have a mask and it makes you feel better, then by all means wear it, but know that the more you touch your face the more you put yourself at risk and know that right now the data isn't quite there to say that there is a net benefit to the individual of wearing a mask.”

Adams also said that N95 respirator masks aren’t as effective for the general public as one might think, saying N95 masks “have to get fit-tested.”

“As a medical professional, I can't just go out and wear an N95. I have to make sure it's properly fitted and I have the right size in order for it to work properly,” he explained.

“There may be a day when we change our recommendations particularly for areas that have large spread going on about wearing cotton masks, but again the data is not there yet,” he continued. “We are continuing to follow it.”

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He added that the CDC is looking at it and “we’ll put out new recommendations if the guidance warrants.”

Fox News’ Brie Stimson contributed to this report.