Washington — Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, said Americans should rely on "individual assessments" of their risk from COVID-19 when making decisions about when to wear a mask or gather in certain settings, citing the "rapidly declining overall vulnerability" to the virus.
"I think it's an environment right now where we're not going to rely necessarily on public health ordinances and mandates from governors and mayors to protect us, but we're going to have to protect ourselves based on our own assessment of our risk and our own comfort," Gottlieb said Sunday on "Face the Nation."
Gottlieb added that the unvaccinated, people with preexisting medical conditions and those in areas of high infection are still at higher risk. He said individuals are going to have to protect themselves based on their own assessment of their risk and their own comfort level.
"I think people may need to make individual assessments of their risk as they make judgments about what they should and should be doing, like wearing a mask in an indoor setting and also judging the setting," stated Gottlieb.
Since January, the seven-day average of new cases nationwide is down 90%, and COVID-19 related hospitalizations are down almost 80%. There are now roughly 500 COVID-19-related deaths per day, a decrease of about 85%. Gottlieb noted that "about 85% of those above the age of 65 have now been vaccinated, so the people most likely to get into trouble with COVID have now been protected through vaccination."
Nearly 39% of the total U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The health agency issued new guidelines earlier this month for the use of masks by those who have been fully vaccinated, saying they are not needed in most indoor and outdoor settings.
Still, Gottlieb said Americans might be cautious about forgoing a mask even when fully vaccinated, after a year spent taking COVID-19 precautions.
"A lot of people have spent a year wearing masks, taking certain precautions. And so it's going to take some time for us to get comfortable again, going into settings without taking those precautions. I think there's nothing wrong with wearing a mask if you're still in an indoor setting, even in an environment where it's not mandated," he said. "And in some places, it's the etiquette. If you go into a pharmacy or a doctor's office, people expect you to be wearing a mask."
Gottlieb said individuals should assess their use of a mask or other precautions based on what their comfort level is.
"The good news is that I think culturally we've changed in that if you're walking around with a mask right now, you're not looked upon in an odd fashion," stated Gottlieb. "Whereas, you know, two years ago, if you wore a mask, everyone would take a step back from you.