INDIANAPOLIS--Wearing a mask slows the spread of coronavirus, even if it may appear on the surface to not be working, according to the U.S. Surgeon and former Indiana State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams.
“Yes, they work based on the evidence we have right now, but it doesn’t do it alone,” said Adams in an interview with 93 WIBC’s Tony Katz Friday morning. “They aren’t going to be an end all be all. In places where people have mask mandates, you see cases going up in places like Texas and California.”
Adams says that doesn’t mean the masks aren’t working to slow the spread.
“What that means is that a mask can’t overcome 10 people close to each in a bar yelling at each other and drinking. What we learned about coronavirus in February and March, which is why the recommendations changed, is that up to 50% of people in some cases can spread it without symptoms. That’s why we added on the mask recommendation,” said Adams.
Adams encouraged influencers and athletes to promote and “normalize” mask-wearing as much as possible.
“My kids will do something if (Indiana Pacers guard) Victor Oladipo says to do it, but they won’t do it when the Surgeon General says to do it. They’ll do something if one of the (Indianapolis) Colts players says to do it more so than they’ll do it when the President of the United States says to do it,” said Adams.
Businesses shutting down during the pandemic has been a source of frustration for many in Indiana. Adams acknowledged that the estimations by the coronavirus task force in the beginning of the pandemic may have been a little high.
“People were predicting a million or two million deaths and every death is a tragedy. But we are far below that (167,000 in U.S. and 760,000 worldwide) and that’s a testament to the American people doing the things that we ask,” says Adams.
Adams could not guarantee when the virus will go away, but he did say there is evidence to prove that the effect of the virus on the world will decrease when people take the appropriate precautions.
“If you look at Spain, Italy, and New York, these were three of the hardest-hit places in the entire world. They are now open again for tourism. Bars and restaurants are open again. We also have data that shows that places that didn’t do these things are having to shut down again because their positivity rates are going back up,” said Adams. “The cases you see today are based on the actions taken two to three weeks ago. The deaths you’re seeing today are from four weeks ago.”
There are some areas of concern in Indiana.
“Indiana is in the yellow (second-worst level of coronavirus positivity rate). Marion County and Allen County are actually in the red (worst level). If you don’t do something today, then two to four weeks from now, you’re going to see hospitalizations go up and deaths go up. They’re seeing that in Texas,” said Adams.
When it comes to the reopening of schools, Adams said there are a lot of things people don’t understand.
“The number 1 determining factor in whether or not you can safely reopen schools has very little to do with the school’s reopening plan. It has more to do with the community transmission rate. You can have the best plan in the world, but if you’ve got runaway transmission in the community, it’s going to find its way into your school and spread. You can have a terrible school reopening plan, but if you have very low disease transmission into your community, it’s going to be unlikely to find its way into the school,” said Adams.
He says the same principle also applies to college sports.
Adams continues to reiterate what he calls the three “W’s: wash your hands, wear a mask, and watch your distance (i.e. stay more than six feet away from others.)