CDC Director Warns: Mask Up or Face Possibly the Worst Fall in US Health History

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a dire warning for Americans still on the fence or actively opposed to wearing a mask or facial covering, or otherwise refusing to adhere to other social distancing rules: Your choices put the country in peril.

In an interview with WebMD published this week, CDC Director Robert Redfield invoked the well-known phrase from President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

“Kind of try to paraphrase that,” Redfield said in the interview. “For your country right now and for the war that we’re in against COVID, I’m asking you to do four simple things: Wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands and be smart about crowds.”

If those directions are followed, the situation will improve, Redfield said. “But if we don’t do that, as I said last April, this could be the worst fall from a public health perspective, we’ve ever had,” he added.

The CDC director added that these practices must be adopted by everyone. “I’m not asking some of America to do it. We all got to do it,” he said, stressing that at least 95 percent of the country has to adhere to those four standards “if it’s going to work for us.”

Unfortunately, President Donald Trump has continued to offer contradictory information about COVID-19.

During a press briefing at the White House last week, Trump suggested without evidence that the disease will disappear on its own.

“It’s going away. It’ll go away. Things go away. No question in my mind that it will go away,” he said.

In mid-July, Trump also flouted CDC guidelines on wearing masks, stating plainly that he was skeptical of their ability to stop the spread of coronavirus.

When asked during a Fox News interview if he regretted not promoting masks earlier, Trump said, “I want people to have a certain freedom, and I don’t believe in that, no. And I don’t agree with the statement that if everybody would wear a mask, everything disappears.”

However, one study which examined mask mandates early on in the crisis from April 8 to May 15 found that they were effective in preventing hundreds of thousands of coronavirus infections.

The vast majority of Americans would be supportive of a national mask mandate. According to a poll from July, 75 percent of respondents said they would back a mask or facial covering order at the national level, with only 13 percent saying they would oppose such an order. (In light of Redfield’s comments, a 13 percent rate of noncompliance with a national mask mandate would be high enough to undermine the effectiveness of such a measure.)

As of Thursday morning, there have been more than 5.2 million cumulative diagnoses of coronavirus in the United States since the pandemic began in March, with 165,936 deaths attributed to the disease so far. According to data modeling from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, total deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. could reach approximately 300,000 by December 1, although nearly a quarter of that amount (70,000) could be prevented if Americans wore masks or facial coverings in a more diligent manner.