Trump Surgeon General Says Honor System With Masks 'Failed,' Backs Universal Mask Wearing

Since unvaccinated Americans aren't wearing masks to combat the coronavirus, former President Donald Trump's surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, is supporting a return to universal mask wearing regardless of vaccination status amid the spread of the Delta variant.

While the vast majority of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths have involved unvaccinated individuals, the rising number of cases has prompted some legislators to reinstate mask requirements, a guidance that could be in place nationwide.

"We tried the honor system. It failed," Adams told CNN's New Day on Tuesday. "We know just by looking around us in communities that there are many more people going without a mask than the statistics show are vaccinated."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lifted mask and quarantine restrictions for vaccinated individuals as the vaccine became more widely available, but there's speculation that the guidance may change.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), said on Sunday that revising mask guidance was under "active consideration," although the White House has repeatedly said the issue of universal mask wearing will be left up to the CDC.

Revised guidance "can't come soon enough," according to Adams, who told New Day he "absolutely" supported vaccinated individuals having to wear masks inside.

vaccine jerome adams masks cdc
Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams backs universal mask wearing even for vaccinated individuals and said the honor system with mask wearing "failed." Adams testifies during a Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing about how to counter vaccine hesitancy, on Capitol Hill July 1 in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Only about 60 percent of America's adult population are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the CDC, and it's possible the number of vaccinations won't significantly rise. A recent Associated Press/NORC poll found 80 percent of unvaccinated individuals "probably" or "definitely" will not get a COVID-19 vaccine shot.

Only 3 percent of unvaccinated individuals said they "definitely" will get vaccinated and 16 percent said they "probably" will.

America's inability to vaccinate 70 percent of its population puts the entire country at risk, and it's possible an even greater percentage of people need to be vaccinated for herd immunity.

Since the outset, people have been hesitant to get vaccinated against COVID-19 because of concerns with the safety of the vaccine or the potential for short- or long-term side effects.

Adams acknowledged that people have valid questions about the vaccines and told New Day he would never shame someone for wanting answers. However, he added that not getting vaccinated puts his 11-year-old daughter, who is not old enough to get vaccinated; his wife, who is undergoing cancer treatment; and his mother, who had a stroke, at an increased risk.

People refusing to get vaccinated also means the country may have to lock down again. "We're going to see more closures, we're going to see more masking, we're going to see a return to last year because people aren't coming together as a team and choosing to get vaccinated or follow other measures," Adams said.

With the Delta variant spreading in the country, Adams said it's likely future mitigation measures require unvaccinated individuals to be frequently tested and wear a mask constantly. He reiterated that America is past the point of allowing mitigation measures to work on the "honor system."