Will wearing masks help California squash 2nd coronavirus surge? UCSF's Dr. Wachter explains

Experts "screwed things up" a bit at the beginning of the pandemic when it comes to masks, Dr. Bob Wachter said. But now it's time to fix that.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- California is deep into a Summer surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. What would it take to flatten the curve once more?

'MIRACLE IS OVER': UCSF doctor explains what went wrong in California's fight against COVID-19

Wearing masks is the obvious answer to Dr. Bob Wachter, the chair of UCSF'S Department of Medicine.

"We kind of screwed things up on masks in our early messaging that they weren't all that important, and of course the messaging out of the federal government that's been both inconsistent and wrong," he told ABC7 News' Kristen Sze Wednesday's 3 p.m. special coverage of Bay Area events.

"If everybody wore a mask the rate of new cases would go down tremendously," Wachter continued. "It wouldn't go down to zero. The masks aren't 100% perfect, but they're pretty darn good."

NEW RESTRICTIONS: Gov. Newsom orders indoor restaurants, wineries, movie theaters to close in most of CA

Scientific studies show widespread mask wearing leads to fewer cases, fewer hospitalizations and fewer ICU hospitalizations related to COVID-19.

Gov. Gavin Newsom recently ordered Californians to wear masks in all high-risk environments. Many counties already have stricter mask requirements in place.

As for a federal mandate on mask wearing, Wachter said, "We should have had that a month ago or even more."

But it's not just about laws, he said. It's about enforcement and changing norms.

WATCH LIST: Here are the California counties where COVID-19 is getting worse

"Think about 50 years ago when it was normal to go in a room and see everybody smoking. It would now be incredibly weird to see that. And it's not just because there are rules and laws against it, but it's because if you did it, somebody in the room would say, 'Don't do that.' And we have to get to a place where people are comfortable saying to each other, 'You have to wear a mask.'"

Watch the full interview with Dr. Wachter in the video player above.

And watch our interactive "Getting Answers" newscast every weekday at 3 p.m. for special coverage of Bay Area events.

If you have a question or comment about the coronavirus pandemic, submit yours via the form below or here.

Get the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus pandemic here

RELATED STORIES & VIDEOS:
Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.