‘We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know’


Dr. Jerome Adams, the former U.S. surgeon general under Donald Trump who has become a frequent commentator on the Biden administration’s pandemic response, on Wednesday expressed concern about a severe drop off in Covid-19 testing which he flagged as threatening to the country’s attempts to rebound from the virus. 

Key Facts

Adams highlighted in a series of tweets that the U.S.’s testing rate has plummeted to just a fraction of what it was in December. 

Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows the average of roughly 1.8 million tests administered each day in mid-December has since dropped to just over 610,000, as of July 13. 

While evidence shows vaccines protect against hospitalizations and deaths, Adams deemed it important to know how the virus is spreading as it “impacts the conversation about masking, schools, boosters, and so much more.”

He called for a national testing strategy that would also address asymptomatic people, highlighting it still remains a problem that some who die from the virus “have it brought into them by someone else who has no clue they are bringing the virus to grandma or into the nursing home.” 

Crucial Quote 

“[Without] a testing strategy for asymptomatic [people], we really don’t know who’s spreading,” Adams wrote. “We don’t know what we don’t know.” 

Key Background 

Though deaths and hospitalizations have massively decreased as a majority of Americans have received the vaccine, public health officials have been sounding the alarm about a rise in cases fueled by the quick-spread of the more infectious delta variant. The number of new cases has increased by more than 100% over the past two weeks, according to data compiled by The New York Times. Experts like Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky are warning of the threat this poses to under-vaccinated parts of the country. So far, just 20 states have met President Biden’s goal of at least partially inoculating 70% of their residents, while seven states are yet to crack a 55% vaccination rate. 


Adams emerged as a key spokesperson for the Trump administration amid its heavily criticized pandemic response. Unlike many other top Trump officials, Adams frequently appealed to the public to follow safety precautions but drew some scrutiny for initially downplaying the virus and for some of the language he used while discussing racial disparities in Covid-19 infections. He resigned from his post in January at the request of the Biden administration and has since continued to publicly comment on the federal government’s pandemic response. He has over the past few months expressed concern about some of the incentives used by states to encourage vaccinations, arguing perks like free beer and lottery tickets may cause more harm than good, and has drawn attention to racial geographic and racial disparities in vaccinations.

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