CDC director Robert Redfield reiterated the importance of mask-wearing during a Senate hearing on Wednesday, just as the Trump administration released detailed plans for the nationwide distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine in the coming months just in time for the November presidential election.
While speaking at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Redfield urged the public to practice mask-wearing as he noted that an eventual COVID-19 vaccine isn’t guaranteed to have 100% efficacy — more like an immunogenicity of 70% — and that wearing face coverings has more of a guarantee to reduce the spread of COVID-19 than getting vaccinated.
“We have clear scientific evidence (masks) work, I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine, because the immunogenicity may be 70 percent,” Redfield said. “And if I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine’s not going to protect me, this face mask will.”
Redfield’s remarks came shortly after Operation Warp Speed officials held a press call earlier Wednesday to outline its detailed plans for the nationwide distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine across the country in the coming months — just in time for the 2020 presidential election.
The Trump administration’s efforts to distribute COVID-19 vaccines — whose efficacy and safety parameters remain unknown — play into suspicions that the timeline for a vaccine approval and release is being politicized now that the country is less than two months away from November 3.
During the Operation Warp Speed press call, Paul Mango, a former health care consultant who now works as deputy chief of staff for policy at the Department of Health and Human Services, said that the Trump administration was targeting the final three months of 2020 for distributing the vaccine, with the timeline beginning next month.
Mango added that HHS is “prepared for all of those uncertainties” regarding the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, while noting that the demand would first exceed supply in what he described as the “constrained phase of vaccine distribution.”
“Think about that as fourth quarter 2020,” Mango said. “As supply equals demand and exceeds demand into 2021, our distribution principles will change.”
Redfield’s remarks also contrast President Trump’s comments the night before during a town hall hosted by ABC News, when Trump offered a rosy picture of COVID-19 going “away very quickly” with a vaccine.
When asked about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden proposing a national mask mandate during his remarks at the Democratic National Convention last month, Trump jabbed the former VP because “he didn’t do it” before going on to argue that “a lot of people don’t want to wear masks.”
The President specifically pointed to waiters who apparently served him recently and were “playing with the mask.”
“I’m not blaming them — I’m just saying what happens. They’re playing with the mask, so the mask is over, and they’re touching it, and then they’re touching the plate. That can’t be good,” Trump said, before briefly pivoting to Dr. Anthony Fauci’s remarks discouraging the public from wearing masks early this year.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was pressed on Trump’s ongoing mixed messaging on face coverings.
After falsely saying that the President “has always supported mask wearing,” McEnany took a cue from Trump by referring to Fauci’s remarks to “60 Minutes” in March when he said that there are often “unintended consequences” of wearing face coverings such as “people fiddling with them and touching their face.”
McEnany then said that although the Trump administration supports mask-wearing, and that “it’s patriotic to do so,” so-called “unintended consequences” can reduce the practice’s efficacy.
“The unintended consequences can be inappropriate usage, touching the mask and then going on and touching something else,” McEnany said. “So the President very vividly described that unintended consequence that can come if not worn appropriately.”
McEnany claims Trump was worried about "inappropriate usage" with masks when he claimed that "a lot of people think that masks are not good." pic.twitter.com/KN35kDknHZ
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) September 16, 2020
Watch Redfield’s remarks below: