'There's no downside to wearing a mask': Adm. Brett Giroir

George Stephanopoulos interviews Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir on "This Week."
11:12 | 07/12/20

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Transcript for 'There's no downside to wearing a mask': Adm. Brett Giroir
We're joined by admiral Brett Giroir. From the white house coronavirus task force. Thank you for joining us again this morning. You know, the president also said this week we're in a good place with the virus. The U.S. Set a single-day record for new cases, 7 out of the last 12 days, and the death toll is rising, can you say we're in a good place? So, thank you for having me on, George. We're all very concerned about what the virus is doing right now. We're in a much better place than we were in April because of a lot of things the testing can allow us to identify a hot spot. We have response teams all going to places. We're in a much better place for ppe across the board. We have new treatments. We're all very concerned about the rise in cases, no doubt about that, and that's why we're meeting regularly, but we're in a much better place. This is not out of control, but it requires a lot of effort and everybody's going to have to do their part. And you know what you're going to ask me and that is, you got to stop the bars, decrease restaurant campaignsty, you've got to physically distance. We have to have people wearing masks in public. It's absolutely essential. You've got to use good hand hygiene. Let's talk about that mask mandate. We saw the president wear the mask in public for the first time. More governors are coming out saying, you must wear a mask in our state. The governor of Louisiana did that yesterday. Is it time for a national mandate? So, you know, I'm not the person who can say who can nationally mandate things, let me tell you, it's very important that unless you're in a state that's really percent positives are really low and cases are decreasing, it's really essential to wear a mask in public. We know that this will decrease your spread of particles to other people. It protects everyone around you and the more data we get about potentially some aerosol spread, particularly in very close spaces with poor ventilation, it's really essential to wear masks. For this to work, we have to have like 90% of people wearing a mask in public in the hot spot areas. If we don't have that we won't get control of the virus. The president said wearing a mask is a double-edged sword, some harm from wearing masks as well, is there any downside to wearing mask? To the data we have right now, there's no downside to wearing a mask. I'm a pediatric icu physician. I wore a mask ten hours a day for many, many years. We don't believe there's a downside to it. Very select people feel uncomfortable with it. Again, you don't have to wear it 24/7, it's really when you're not within your home and you're out in a public space and you can't physically distance. There's no medical reason except for maybe one in a million that people can't wear a mask according to the guidelines we have. You're in charge of testing for the task force. Testing is far below 1.7 million it would take to mitigate this virus. We've seen those long lines in the hardest-hit states, 13 hours in Phoenix, why are we still seeing bottlenecks like this so deep into the crisis? Well, there are about five questions in there. We're now -- we have days that we test over 8,000 people and I'd predict in the next couple of weeks we'll hit over a million people, particularly with pooling, we're having many, many point of care. And just because says we need 1.7 million tests per day, doesn't mean that's true. We think we have enough test today to identify where the hot spots are, when the percent positive goes up we know that's a hot spot. Right, but in those hot spots we're seeing those long lines. Well, yes and no. In some places we are. In some places we aren't. In Phoenix, for example, where everyone talks about it, we have 44 federal sites that are there that can be used in addition to those long lines. We're surging testing there at the request of the governor and we really have to work with some of the local partners. If you say that anybody who wants a test who wakes up and has it, don't have any appointments scheduled they're going to be lines. We want to support them with logistics. We have CDC personnel in every town. I'm talking to people on a regular basis, multiple times a day, our testing is up. You'll see a lot more improvements in testing with point of care and pooling over the next week or so. We expect turnaround times to go down as we lessen the burden of nursing homes because we have alternate strategies for them to so, again, we need to have as many tests as possible to identify where the hot spots are. Once you identify them you got to do something. The measures we just talked about -- wear a face mask, wash your hands, et cetera. In those hot spots are places that reopened early. I want to show a graph from "The New York Times" showing the astronomical increase in cases in places like Florida, south Carolina, Texas, and Georgia since they reopened. You mentioned masks and social distancing, but is it time to consider more stringent lockdowns in those states? You know, everything should be on the table, what we model are the most important interactions, closing bars, if you're in a red state, I mean like a red state -- red meaning you have a lot of transmission -- closing bars is an important thing. Limiting the capacity of restaurants is an important thing. Two measures that need to be done. They really do need to be done. Mask wearing in public. In order for us to reverse this problem, we need about 90% of people in those really hot areas to wear masks when they're in public. Let me just say, we're not out of this at all. We're all very concerned. But we have seen this week a leveling of the percent positive, that's our first indicator, if that levels we'll start seeing emergency rooms drop, hospitalizations drop. I'm saying the measures that we have right now indicate that we're in -- we have a lot of cases right now, but the measures we're doing may be putting a lid on that. Hospitalizations, very concerning. I was going to say, those positivity levels in the hot states are leveling off at a very high level, significantly high level, that means we're likely to see the death rate increase even more over the next few weeks, doesn't it? So, look, that's a leading indicator, we expect hospitalizations to continue to go up, the leading indicator is the first thing you see and when it levels off. We do expect and are planning for and surging people and everything else, but we expect hospitalizations to go up, at the peak in April, about 85,000. Right now we're at 63,000. We do expect those to go up and unfortunately, even though the mortality rate, your chances of dying if you get covid are way reduced, we know how to care for you better, we have remdesivir and steroids. The chance of surviving is much but we expect deaths to go up. More cases, more hospitalizations, we do expect to see that over the next two, three weeks. Before this turns around. It's starting to turn now. But we won't reap the benefits for that a few weeks. Everyone wants to see kids back in school in the fall, but the big question is, how to do it safely. The president said he thinks the CDC guidelines are too tough and too expensive. Do you share that concern? I think the CDC guidelines are really right on target. And we all, you know, the CDC guidelines, we all work on it together. All the docs on the agency. We feel they're pretty strong. I want to emphasize, I'm a pediatrician, we have to do this safely but kids not being in school risk their social and emotional health, risk many people with nutrition, the recognition of child abuse, child sexual abuse. It's really important to get kids physically back in school but we do have to do that safely. And the first thing we need to do is, we need to get the virus under control. When we get the virus more under control, then we can think about how we put children back in the classroom. We know from other countries particularly young children don't seem to spread the virus. We know they don't get sick. We're learning a lot from looking at Sweden, Finland and Japan, about how to do this it's a health reason to get them back in school, but it's got to be done carefully. The CDC guidelines are good. The guidelines are aren't changing this week. These are guidelines that are amenable to school districts actually implementing them. These guidelines will be concise. So people can really follow them and understand them. Finally, sir, I was struck that a biomedical executive, former professor at Harvard medical school. All people who study these viruses think that the summer is the quiet time, think about that, if this is the quiet time, I hate to think what winter is going to be like this year, should we be braced for a stronger second wave, and what can we do now to soften the blow? So, we had no data to suggest that this would go away. We know 90% of our population is still at risk for the coronavirus. So we were hopeful that it would diminish in the summer, but we didn't count on it. And yes, there's a possibility it could be worse in the fall and we're all continuing to increase everything we do. I do think in the fall we're going to need tens of millions of more tests per month and we're planning for that. Because we'll have a lot of respiratory viruses like flu circulating. Critical to get the flu vaccine. We don't flu circulating with covid. There are some data that you can get both at the same time, that's not really good. We're continuing to work with our commercial partners. They're working on strategies with us on pooling. Finally we're doubling down on protecting the nursing homes. Lot of actions in the next couple of weeks of getting point of care testing into the nursing homes at risk that will decrease the burden on the commercial labs, but also give people turnaround times of 15 minutes. So we can control that. It's all hands on deck. It's been all hands on deck since the middle of March. Unfortunately it's still all hands on deck during the summer. But we are preparing for the fall. Admiral, thanks very much for your time and thank you for being so straight with us this morning.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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