WASHINGTON, DC – Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) before a key Senate panel that face masks may provide more protection from COVID-19 than a coronavirus vaccine.
Reed, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-H), noted the importance of wearing a face mask and that the CDC says the science is clear that masks are effective when it comes to combatting and containing COVID-19. Senator Reed noted that President Trump continues to hold large group events where attendees do not wear masks. He asked the Trump Administration officials testifying before the committee whether President Trump’s refusal to wear a mask and his mixed messages on masks undercuts the CDC’s scientific guidance.
Refield responded, “These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have. I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine.” Redfield explained that since a vaccine may have a 70 percent immunogenicity – the ability to induce an immune response – that a vaccine will not protect a person in the event they fall within the other 30 percent of immune reactions. A mask, however, provides protection as long as it is used properly.
The CDC director added that all Americans should wear masks in public, saying, “we have clear scientific evidence that they work.”
TRANSCRIPT: Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Holds Hearing on HHS’s Response to COVID-19 – Sept. 16, 2020
SEN. REED: Thank you very much Mr. Chairman and thank you gentlemen for your testimony. I was particularly struck how emphatic you all were in insisting that the use of facemasks is absolutely critical in a social setting. You are all wearing facemask. I have mine. I took it off to ask questions and yet last evening the President once again disparaged the importance of wearing facemasks. He does not wear one usually, he has conducted rallies in which many of the participants are without facemasks and he didn’t have a facemask. So let me just ask one of you, Admiral, you are a uniformed officer, is the President providing appropriate leadership when it comes to this critical issue, one of the most direct and important things anyone can do to protect themselves and the community from this disease?
ADMIRAL BRETT GIROIR, HHS: Well, as a uniformed officer I am not going to comment about the President but I do want to emphasize that wearing a mask is one of the most important things that we can do to prevent spread particularly because people who are asymptomatic you can feel totally fine but still be spreading the virus which is why wearing a mask when you can’t physically distance is absolutely critical and I think I probably speak for my other two colleagues but you will want them–
REED: I want them too, but I think you have just directly contradicted the President’s behavior and the President’s comments even though you have done it politely. Doctor?
ASST SEC. DR. BOB KADLEC, HHS: Sir, we are supportive of the mask, that is why we produced half 1 billion of them and made them available to the American public at large.
REED: The answer is–
REED: –is the President undercutting what is–you have all said and you have repeated one of the most important steps that Americans can take to defend themselves and the country against this disease?
KADLEC: Sir, my–my view is that he as an individual can exercise his rights to do what he pleases as we see other Americans doing that and so he is–
REED: But also the leader of the country trying to come up with–with a disease, a pandemic that has killed over 100,000 people and he is not–he is rejecting this emphatic advice that you give repeatedly and you yourself demonstrate. Dr. Redfield, your comment?
REDFIELD: I am not going to comment directly about the president but I am going to comment as the CDC director that facemask, these facemask are the most important powerful public health tool we have and I will continue to appeal for all Americans, all individuals in our country to embrace these face coverings. I have said it, if we did it for six, eight, ten, twelve weeks we would bring this pandemic under control. These actually–we have clear scientific evidence they work and they are our best defense.
I might even go so far as to say that this facemask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take the COVID vaccine because the immunogenicity may be 70 percent and if I don’t get an enemy in response the vaccine is not going to protect me. This face mask will. So I do want to keep asking the American public to take the responsibility particularly the 18-25 years old where we are seeing the outbreak in America continue to go like this because we haven’t got the acceptance, the personal responsibility that we need for all Americans to embrace the facemask.
REED: Once again I think you have refuted the president more eloquently than I have heard. You are the expert, leaders have to depend on expert advice, that is why they have people like you there and when they don’t take your advice in fact when they disregarded and it has been said so emphatically here it’s not a question of any doubt at all in your views all of you.
Just a final quick question and I only have a bit of time in Dr. Redfield and Dr. Kadlec quickly your vaccine plan has to involve these states. Can you just very, very briefly Dr. Redfield is there a conscious integration of these states in terms of their public health services and is there resources available for the states in this plan because they’ll–they’ll need them?
REDFIELD: Yes, sir. It is critical. We have done micro planning already with five jurisdictions North Dakota, Minnesota, California, Florida and Philadelphia and this plan will be going out today to all of the states. I will be talking to the state public health leaders this week. We will be working with them so that they can integrate this plan in their own unique way for their own state and there will be support to help them begin to resource this plan.
REED: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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