FULL EPISODE: 8/8/21 Fmr. US Surgeon General Jerome Adams & CIDRAP Dir. Dr. Michael Osterholm on the Delta variant

Published: Aug. 7, 2021 at 10:50 PM EDT
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Washington, D.C. – Greta Van Susteren interviewed Dr. Jerome Adams, former Surgeon General of the United States under President Donald Trump, and Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, for Gray Television’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren” airing Sunday, August 8, 2021. The episode will also feature a discussion with Lee Zurik, Director of Investigations at InvestigateTV, on the health divide in America.

Dr. Adams told Van Susteren he believes the CDC and the FDA’s recent COVID messaging has been “less than ideal.” Adams said it was important to have messengers from different political parties and suggested “having Vice President Harris and Former Vice President Pence come together” to appeal to the unvaccinated.

When asked who should make the decision on mask mandates at schools this fall, Adams answered: “What really bothers me, and I mean really bothers me, are these officials, these politicians who are taking tools out of the hands of public health offices.”

“I think you’re going to see more masking. I think you’re going to see more closures and shutdowns, and I think it’s going to happen because we don’t have enough people vaccinated and we don’t have this pandemic under control,” continued Adams. And on what the COVID landscape could look like in the fall, the former Surgeon General said: “My fear is, actually, by October we may be dealing with yet another variant.”

Dr. Osterholm, an epidemiologist, told Van Susteren that “face cloth coverings … don’t really provide very good protection against an aerosol. They can surely reduce it.” He added: I’m very supportive of masking, but I want you to be in an N95 respirator.”

Osterholm also said the medical community is not yet on the same page in terms of whether COVID vaccine boosters are needed. “One day, you have a company coming out saying, ‘My product needs a booster,’ and the federal government coming out the same day saying, ‘No, we don’t.’ And so, let’s just say we’re on a trajectory to learn about whether we’re going to need boosters or not,” said Osterholm.

Dr. Jerome Adams Highlights

On COVID messaging from the Biden administration

Dr. Jerome Adams, Former Surgeon General

We have to be honest, the CDC and the FDA have been less than ideal in their messaging lately. I think they’re starting to course-correct quite a bit.

Dr. Jerome Adams, Former Surgeon General

But one of the things I was really happy about is that the Biden administration invited me and the other former surgeon generals to a convening recently, where we talked just about the issues. And we want to utilize our collective bully pulpit, we want to utilize the diversity that’s represented both on a gender basis and on an ethnicity basis. Plus, we’re from all over the country to help combat misinformation, to help get information out to the people who most need it so that they can make informed choices. Because when people have the information from individuals they trust, they do tend to make good choices.

On whether Democrats and Republicans can find common ground on COVID messaging

Dr. Jerome Adams, Former Surgeon General

One of the things that I’ve talked about is maybe having Vice-President Harris and Former Vice President Pence come together, because as you may remember, Vice President Pence and I got our vaccines together on live TV.

Dr. Jerome Adams, Former Surgeon General

It is incredibly important that Republicans see people who they know and trust getting vaccinated and supporting these measures, and that Democrats see people who they know and trust. You need messengers from different political parties.

Dr. Jerome Adams, Former Surgeon General

I’d love to see Trump and Biden come together on this, but unfortunately, there’s just so much political vitriol going on right now that it’s hindering our ability to see the real enemy, and that’s COVID.

On companies mandating COVID vaccinations

Greta Van Susteren

One of the issues that people have is that they talk about their rights. And you’ve got McDonald’s and Starbucks and Target, and they want their people to be vaccinated. How does the government, from a policy standpoint, decide what to say to these corporations, how to work with them?

Dr. Jerome Adams, Former Surgeon General

Number one, rights come with responsibilities. Freedom isn’t free. And so if you want freedom for your kids to be able to go to school and be able to go to a sporting event, to be able to go to a restaurant, then your freedom can’t infringe upon other people’s freedom to live on this planet and in this country. And so we’ve got vaccines, we have masks, we have an array of choices for you, but your choice can’t be to do nothing. At least not if you want to engage in the public setting.

Dr. Jerome Adams, Former Surgeon General

I really love that that Biden didn’t act necessarily as the Commander in Chief so much as he acted as the Employer in Chief last week when he said, “If you’re a federal employee, you’re going to have to show proof of vaccination or you’re going to have to help keep people safe in other ways, through testing, through masking, through not being able to go on trips or interact in the way that you used to.”

Dr. Jerome Adams, Former Surgeon General

When you look at the NFL, the NFL is a business and they know that their business will not prosper if stadiums are shut down and if athletes are pulled off the field, so they invoked more strenuous mitigation measures. You’re going to see more and more businesses do that.

On why the FDA has not yet fully authorized the COVID vaccines

Dr. Jerome Adams, Former Surgeon General

I’ve been hard on the FDA, and I want to really help people understand the challenges that they face. The FDA is a big agency. They’re working on drug development for cancer. They’re working on e-cigarettes, they’re working on a number of other measures and you rob Peter to pay Paul when you pull someone from one initiative to work on another initiative.

Dr. Jerome Adams, Former Surgeon General

That said, all these other initiatives are being put on the backburner anyway because we’re being overwhelmed with new COVID cases, thanks to the Delta variant. The FDA rightly this week announced that it was going to prioritize getting full licensure for these vaccines.

Dr. Jerome Adams, Former Surgeon General

And I’m hopeful that they will meet that timeline of late August or early September. Because, here’s the thing, if they don’t want it to be a moot point, they could finally get licensure for a vaccine that actually no longer works because we’ve allowed new variants to pop up, thanks to uncontrolled spread.

On a federal testing strategy

Dr. Jerome Adams, Former Surgeon General

We need a testing strategy, a federal testing strategy, that not only allows and encourages people who are symptomatic or who’ve been exposed to get tested, but to do surveillance. We do this for the flu every single year.

On who should have the authority to mandate masks in schools

Dr. Jerome Adams, Former Surgeon General

The authority, whether we like it or not, and I think this is appropriate for most public health measures, lies at the local and state level. What really bothers me, and I mean really bothers me, are these officials, these politicians who are taking tools out of the hands of public health offices.

Dr. Jerome Adams, Former Surgeon General

I understand you don’t like masks; I understand you don’t like vaccine verifications, but don’t send your soldiers into war without their bulletproof vests. You’d never sent a police officer out into the field without a weapon. Don’t take weapons away indiscriminately from public health officials.

Dr. Jerome Adams, Former Surgeon General

I think you’re going to see more masking. I think you’re going to see more closures and shutdowns, and I think it’s going to happen because we don’t have enough people vaccinated and we don’t have this pandemic under control, and we’re taking away tools to be able to control the pandemic.

On how things will look in October

Dr. Jerome Adams, Former Surgeon General

Well, when you look at what happened in the UK, they were able to go up and come back down again. But they’re much smaller than what we are, much more homogeneous. In the United States, we’ve seen not everyone get hit at once, but everyone gets hit in different pockets. So my hope is that with this high level of vaccination that we do have in the United States, and it’s not everybody, but we do have a significant proportion vaccinated, that by October we’ll see this wave coming back down again. My fear is actually by October, we may be dealing with yet another variant.

Dr. Michael Osterholm Highlights

On whether we need vaccine booster shots

Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota

We are now in the land of what I call corrected science, not misinformation, not disinformation, but what we tell you today may not be exactly what it’s going to be tomorrow. And I don’t mean that in the standpoint that there’s some big surprise coming that, oh, by the way, the vaccines don’t work or they’re not safe, but we’re finetuning what we know about these vaccines over time.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota

We’re going to have to figure out at six, seven, and eight months following vaccination, do we need boosters? Is this a virus, and what it does to our immune system, and how our immune system responds? We need to have additional boosters. So, this is what right now is a bit confusing for the public, I think really confusing, is you hear about Israel, you hear about some of the European countries, all talking about boosters. One day, you have a company coming out saying, “My product needs a booster,” and the federal government coming out the same day saying, “No, we don’t.” And so, let’s just say we’re on a trajectory to learn about whether we’re going to need boosters or not.

On breakthrough Infections

Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota

What the challenge is now is trying to understand what the implications of these breakthroughs are. Do people, in fact, still go on and have some kind of long COVID conditions with mild to asymptomatic infections? What happens in terms of their transmission? Do they transmit the virus? And so, again, these are all things that we’re studying. But the bottom line message is they are saving lives.

On therapeutics

Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota

Those kinds of drugs, that has been the source now of a very substantial initiative at the NIH, as well as private drug manufacturers around the world and other governments trying to find the pill, that basically, if you come in, rather than have to watch and wait, are you going to get worse? Should you, in fact, get the immune globulin right now? What if I can just give you a prescription for the pill, go home? And you may still get a little sicker, but not progress to serious illness. I think that really is the potential for the future, also to really reduce the morbidity, mortality associated with this virus infections to get that kind of medication. And I do think it’s forthcoming.

On masks

Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota

Well, first of all, we have to understand how the virus is transmitted. And today, we have much more information on that than we had at the beginning of the pandemic.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota

Aerosols, the tiny, tiny particles that float in the air, really are important, and they are a main way of transmission.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota

If you understand an aerosol, think of the following. I’m at a department store, I’m three aisles away, and I can still smell the perfume department, even though I don’t see anything in the air.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota

And the face cloth coverings we had don’t really provide very good protection against an aerosol. They can surely reduce it.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota

Initially, we thought that if you were in a room for 15 minutes with someone who is infected, that they could transmit the virus to you, in terms of the amount of air that you breathed in, that the virus was floating in. And in fact, work done by some of the leading industrial hygienists, people who really specialize in this area, will tell you that initially, we thought that if you were in a room for 15 minutes with someone who is infected, that they could transmit the virus to you, in terms of the amount of air that you breathed in, that the virus was floating in.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota

Well, we learned that with additional studies, a face cloth covering probably gave you about five minutes of additional protection. So, it was 20 minutes to the time that you could get infected. A surgical mask would give you another 5 to 10 minutes to get it up to basically 30 minutes of protection. Whereas an N95 respirator, which is, while it’s called a respirator, it’s like a mask. It’s tight face fitting, et cetera. You can get anywhere from 2.5 hours to, if you get it on tight, you can get up to 25 hours of protection.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota

I’m very supportive of masking, but I want you to be in an N95 respirator. Now, a year ago, we couldn’t have told you that because we didn’t have enough for the healthcare workers. Today, we have a major surplus in this country and around the world because of all the increased production. And they’re relatively cheap. You can buy them for $1 a respirator. And they’re easy to get. They’re in hardware stores, they’re are online. And so, if I were to tell you and I wanted to keep you from getting infected or for you to transmit to others, I’d say, “Please, rather than wearing a face cloth covering, wear an N95.”

Greta Van Susteren

Is the blue surgical mask the same as the cloth mask?

Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota

There’s a slightly increased protection, but not much. And it depends upon if they’re a real surgical mask or what we call it procedure mask. Procedure masks typically are not pervious, meaning that is basically airtight. It’s like having cellophane in front of your face. So, it leaks out the sides. An actual surgical mask may actually have some breathability across the material in front of your face, which means you have less leakage on the outside from that. Think of this like a mask you would use for swimming, goggles for swimming. They don’t leak through the glass. They leak at the edges. And that’s what you have to think about with this protection, is what is it’s going to keep the air from leaking in and leaking out, to keep me protected or to protect others from me, should I become infected?

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About Greta Van Susteren:

Greta Van Susteren is the Chief Political Analyst for Gray Media and host of Full Court Press. Ms. Van Susteren is a veteran of Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and CNN. Her prime-time Fox News Channel Show, “On the Record,” was number 1 in its time slot for 14 1⁄2 years. Before joining Fox News, she hosted CNN’s prime-time news and analysis program, “The Point with Greta Van Susteren,” and co-hosted the network’s daily legal analysis show, “Burden of Proof.” Her legal analysis for CNN’s coverage of Election 2000 earned her the American Bar Association’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Journalism. She continues to host the weekly 30-minute program “Plugged In with Greta Van Susteren” on Voice of America, which broadcasts exclusively outside of the United States.

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