Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. surgeon general, on Monday said he was “begging” the public to understand that the federal government is not trying to take away individual freedom by asking people to wear face coverings to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
“I’m pleading with your viewers, I’m begging you: Please understand that we are not trying to take away your freedoms when we say wear a face covering,” Dr. Adams said on “Fox & Friends.” “This administration really fights to protect our freedoms, but we want people to know freedom comes with responsibility.”
He said they’re not trying to take away the public’s ability to go out by lobbying for restaurants to limit their capacity to 50%.
“We’re saying if we do these things, we can actually open and stay open — we can get back to school, to worship, to jobs,” he said. “We’re focused because of politics on who’s not, but more people are wearing face coverings than ever were — a lot of people are doing the right thing.”
Dr. Adams’ comments came shortly after President Trump, in a new interview, cited personal freedom as a rationale for not having a national mask mandate.
“No, I want people to have a certain freedom, and I don’t believe in that, no,” Mr. Trump told Fox News’ Chris Wallace.
The president also pointed out that Dr. Adams was among the administration officials who had urged the public not to wear masks just months ago.
“I don’t agree with the statement that if everybody [wears] a mask, everything disappears,” the president said. “With that being said, I’m a believer in masks. I think masks are good.”
Dr. Adams said that as the science progressed, the administration changed its recommendations on masks.
“As the president said, this whole administration is now supportive of masks,” he said.
Dr. Adams acknowledged there are new coronavirus hot spots in states such as Arizona, Florida and Texas, but said the U.S. is in a different place compared to February and March with better testing capacity, treatments and access to personal protective equipment.
“But it’s important for people to know that we don’t want to rely on treating our way out of this problem,” Dr. Adams said. “We really want to prevent the problem. … The power to stop this epidemic is in the hands of the American people.”