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Gottlieb On Masking: ‘Some People See It As A Sort Of Infringement On Their Liberty’
People wear face masks on April 03, 2020 in New York.
Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

On Sunday, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” to speak about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The segment began with host Margaret Brennan asking Gottlieb about the increase in cases being seen across the country.

“We heard that the number of COVID-19 cases has exceeded 30,000 a day for the first time in about seven weeks,” Brennan said. “What is happening?”

Gottlieb replied, saying that there appears to be “a resurgence in the South and the Southeast,” adding that “the worry is that they’re going to tip over into exponential growth coming this week because the cases are building quite quickly in Texas, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arizona.”

“And the challenge with exponential growth is everything looks okay until suddenly it doesn’t,” the former FDA commissioner stated.

Brennan pressed Gottlieb on his “exponential growth” remark, asking if “hospitals are about to get overwhelmed in places like Arizona and Texas.”

“That’s the concern,” Gottlieb responded. “So if you look at places like Arizona, the hospitals now are getting pressed. Midweek, there was a report out of Arizona that about 40% of the hospital beds were filled with COVID patients.”

Gottlieb spoke about Texas and Florida, noting that COVID crises can arise swiftly.

“We’re not going to want to shut down businesses again. We’re not going to want to shut down the economy. So, there’s not many tools we can reach for,” he said, citing interventions, tracking, and isolation of the ill.

Gottlieb also mentioned “universal masking,” which seemingly prompted Brennan to ask about what various states are doing as it pertains to mandatory masking.

“In Arizona, it was just this week that the governor gave mayors the power to make masks mandatory. They’re not doing that in Florida. They’re not doing that in Texas,” Brenna stated. “Is that a mistake?”

Gottlieb replied:

I think they’re going to have to. I think it’s a mistake that they’re not doing it now. They’re losing precious time. I think they’re going to have to. Masking has become controversial. It shouldn’t be. It’s a simple intervention. It’s a collective action we can all take to help protect our fellow citizens, and also protect ourselves and try to reopen the economy safely.

I think some people see it as a sort of infringement on their liberty or as a way to cast some scorn on a public health establishment that’s come in for some questions because people blame the public health establishment for the shutdowns. They blame the public health establishment for some conflicting guidance. I think in other quarters, it’s been portrayed as something that, you know, Trump supporters don’t want to wear masks. It’s neither of those things. It’s something that we can do collectively to try to reduce the spread…

Brennan noted that there have indeed been “conflicting messages” from “health officials” as it pertains to wearing masks. Gottlieb responded, saying that there was concern that in “telling people they could wear masks, you’re telling them they can go out.”

The former FDA commissioner did admit that the information should have been more “appropriately” delivered.

“We should have been recommending masks from the outset,” Gottlieb said.

COVID-19 has infected more than 8.9 million people worldwide, leading to more than 466,500 deaths, according to data from the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) Global Cases map. Roughly 4.4 million people have recovered.

In the United States, more than 2.2 million people have been sickened by the virus, leading to over 119,900 deaths and counting.

According to The New York Times, 22 states “have had recent growth in newly reported cases over the last 14 days.” States with especially pronounced spikes include Arizona, Texas, Florida, Oregon, Oklahoma, Nevada, and South Carolina.

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