Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration under the Trump administration, said that the United States should lift its mask mandates indoors immediately in light of the vaccination campaign.
“I think we can do it right around now,” Gottlieb told CNBC Thursday evening. “I think we should start lifting these restrictions as aggressively as we put them in.”
Gottlieb said that lifting the restrictions is vital to keeping public trust in public health officials.
“We need to preserve the credibility of public health officials to reimplement some of these restrictions as we get into next winter if we do start seeing outbreaks again,” he said. “And I think the only way to earn public credibility is to demonstrate that you’re willing to relax these provisions when the situation improves. That’s what gives you the credibility to implement them when things worsen.”
Public health officials have been more conservative. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance saying that people who had been fully vaccinated did not need to wear a mask when they are outdoors unless they are near large groups of people, such as a concert or sporting event. On Wednesday, the CDC said that those between the ages of 12 and 15 who have been fully vaccinated will not need to wear masks at summer camps. Federal regulators are preparing to give the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine emergency use authorization for use on those between the ages of 12 and 15.
New COVID-19 cases continue to fall nationwide, dropping to a seven-day average of 45,081 Thursday. That’s down 43% from the most recent peak of 78,449 on April 16.
While the pace of vaccinations has slowed in recent weeks, nearly 42% of the adult population has been fully vaccinated, as have 70% of seniors, one of the most vulnerable groups. Experts believe that the vaccinations are helping to drive down cases.
“I think as we get into May, as we see prevalence levels start to decline even further, and especially if you are in environments where you know … you have a lot of vaccinated people, I don’t think you have to continue these mask mandates,” Gottlieb said. “I think over the course of this month that we will see the picture improve sharply enough that by the end of the month, we’re gonna be lifting these mask mandates.”