4th of July: US Surgeon General Begs Americans to 'Please Wear a Face Covering'

United States Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams recommends people wear masks to stop the spread of the coronavirus, calling it the "most important thing" people can do to protect themselves and others if they choose to go out in public or to a larger gathering for the Fourth of July holiday. Friday, Adams appeared on the Today show to discuss the large celebrations planned for Mount Rushmore and Washington, D.C., neither of which have mandatory mask requirements.

"Would you advise someone to go to a large gathering, yes or no?" Craig Melvin asked Adams, who answered that the issue was more complicated than that. "Craig, it’s not a yes or no. Every single person has to make up their own mind. There are going to be people going to beaches, going to barbecues, going to different environments and they have to look at their individual risk," he responded.

Adams acknowledged that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called large gatherings a high-risk activity amid the pandemic. "You have to take that into account again with whether or not you’re at risk, whether you live with someone who is vulnerable," he explained. "And then you have to take measures to stay safe and the most important thing I would say to people is if you do go out to a gathering or in public, please wear a face covering."

Holding up a mask, Adams said that by wearing a face covering, it will allow the U.S. economy to stay open and prevent a second lockdown necessitated by the ongoing spike in cases. "As we talk about Fourth of July and independence, it’s important to understand that if we all wear these we will actually have more independence and more freedom because more places will be able to stay open," he said. "We’ll have less spread of the disease."

While Adams initially said masks were not necessary back in March at the beginning of the pandemic, he said as scientists have learned more about the transmission of the disease, he has reversed that recommendation. "It’s important for people to understand that we now know 40 to 50% of cases of coronavirus spread asymptomatically and that’s different than any other coronavirus we’ve experienced before, which means you can have no symptoms, no cough, no fever and still be someone who’s spreading the disease," Adams explained. "We know that many of the new cases are being spread in much younger people and it’s why we now encourage everyone to wear a face covering or a mask, so that you can prevent asymptomatic spread."