'Masks are about the idea that I'm going to protect you, you protect me': Gawande

Tom Bossert and Dr. Atul Gawande appear on "This Week."
4:49 | 05/24/20

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Transcript for 'Masks are about the idea that I'm going to protect you, you protect me': Gawande
Let's get more on all of this now with ABC news contributor and former homeland security adviser Tom Bossert and surgeon and staff writer for the new Yorker, Dr. Atul gawande. Welcome to both of you. Tom Bossert, we've talked regularly over the past two months about the lessons the country is learning from this experience and you say the big one is that staying home has worked, that's why we're able to slowly reopen, but many believe that the country overreacted and I think you have seen a lot of them on the beaches. What would you say to them? Good morning, Martha. I'd say that my now biggest worry becomes that that conclusion is negative learning. The idea of believing that the shelter in place approach didn't work, prevents us from again using it and the plan from the beginning was never to enter into a nationwide lockdown, a blanket lockdown. We had to do that because we waited so long and because we didn't have the testing, it was so late, but the idea now of getting out of that shelter in place, you know, restriction isn't to get out of it forever it is to relax a little bit. Dr. Gawande's pillars are very important. But it's to have the flexibility to return to them as needed in a localized fashion to prevent us from having to get into a an autumnal nationwide lockdown again. I wished Dr. Birx said it's the plan so that people don't view it as failure when it becomes necessary. And Dr. Gawande, you had a fascinating piece outlining those four pillars of a strategy for reopening based on your experience at the hospital -- hygiene, distancing, screening, masks -- but there's a fifth pillar that's arguably the most difficult and that's culture. Can you elaborate on that? Yeah, part of this is the idea of masks -- we're having a debate about safety versus freedom. Keep me safe, leave me alone. Masks are about the idea, I'm going to protect you, you protect me, and a further part of the four pillars is, paying attention to symptoms, screening every day in the workplace, or even when you go into stores for whether you have a fever, sore throat, even sniffles, and those can be indicators of illness. Our culture has to be one that says, if I feel like I'm mildly sick I need to stay home. A case in Missouri of the hairdresser who went to work every day, wore masks but had coronavirus symptoms for eight days and exposed a hundred people, the masks aren't perfect. Our social distancing isn't perfect. Our handwashing isn't perfect. But if you put these four things together it work and a majority of American people do feel Do you feel better and safer at home? One of the people who's socially distancing, but you're out with others who are not, are you still safe? Well, there's a calculated risk going on right now. And we are, as Dr. Birx said, we're learning how to work with one another. It's not safe to be, you know, out en masse. She referred to the Arkansas pool party, where it's safer outside, and yet if we're close together, not paying to doing all four parts of this including staying home if you're at all symptomatic, several people at that pool party have become infected. So you have to be able to put the pieces together. And we're learning how to do that. And you have to be able to gently remind one another. This is what we need to do together to keep each other safe. That may be the hard part. Tom Bossert, we have seen cultural resistance in protests, the president continues to not wear a mask in public, he's out golfing, his campaign is sending make America great signs along beaches, this can't be helpful. Do as I say not as I do. You know, instead of focusing on what you can't do this weekend a couple of things you should do -- wear a mask, it's common decency. Pray and think about those who have passed in our former wars, and those who passed in the last three months, 100,000 souls have been lost in this country and then make sure you remember to wash your hands and remain socially distant even though the shelter in place rules have been lifted. I thank you both.

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

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