CDC to Advise Everyone to Wear Face Masks While Out in Public, Trump Confirms
All Americans will be advised to non-surgical face coverings
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will update its guidelines in the coming days to advise all Americans to wear face masks while out in public, President Donald Trump has confirmed.
The CDC will advise everyone, sick or not, to wear cloth masks or other face coverings, such as scarves, but will urge the public not to use surgical masks - which are needed for our heroic health workers.
President Trump said, however, that the new guidelines will not be mandatory.
The policy marks a profound change in messaging as both the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) previously advised against wearing masks unless they had become infected with the coronavirus.
The new guidance has yet to be officially announced but it is in the works and expected soon, according to multiple reports.
The news comes as more than 1 million people globally have been infected with COVID-19.
President Trump confirmed the new guidelines was on the way during his daily White House coronavirus briefing on Thursday.
"I think they're going to be coming out with the regulations on that," he told reporters.
"I don't think it will be mandatory because some people don't want to do that, but if people wanted to wear them, they can.
"People wanted to use scarves, which they have that many people have of them, they can. In many cases, the scarf is better, it's thicker.
"Depending on the material, it's thicker. But they couldn't do that if they want.
"The recommendation is coming out and we'll see what that recommendation is but I will say this, they can pretty much decide for themselves right now," he said.
Vice President Mike Pence also noted it would be coming out "in the days ahead."
Health officials believe wearing masks would reduce the risk of people not showing symptoms from spreading the virus, according to The Daily Mail.
Dr. Deborah Birx, who coordinates the day-to-day administration response to the virus, cautioned people should not consider masks as a guarantee of protection.
"We don't want people to feel like 'I'm wearing a mask, I am protected, and I'm protecting others'," she said at the White House briefing.
"You may be protecting others, but don't get a false sense of security that that mask is protecting you exclusively from getting infected because they were other ways that you can get infected because the number of asymptomatic and mild cases that are out there."
She advised people to continue social distancing practices and to wash their hands.
The new guidance will make it clear that N95 surgical masks should be saved for health care workers and others on the front lines, who have been in dire need of them.
Simple cloth masks - or scarves or bandannas - will be the recommendation for when people go to the grocery store, for a walk or are outside, as they will stop people - who may not be showing symptoms - from expelling the virus into the air.
"In light of these new data, along with evidence of widespread transmission in communities across the country, CDC recommends the community use of cloth masks as an additional public health measure people can take to prevent the spread of the virus to those around them," according to a copy of the guidance obtained by The Washington Post.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a White House coronavirus task force member and leading infectious disease expert, had said that the subject of having Americans cover their faces in public is a "very active discussion" among the committee.
Research remains mixed on whether surgical masks work as well as N95 respirators and whether cloth face coverings do much at all to prevent infection, but Dr. Fauci noted that they might be protective, and certainly won't do harm - as long as medical workers have enough.
"From what I've seen...I think that if we do not have the problem of taking away masks from healthcare workers who need them, I would lean towards it because I think that it - I mean, what - what harm can it do if you have enough masks?" Dr. Fauci told CNN.
Like most respiratory illnesses, coronavirus is spread in tiny droplets of moisture that carry virus particles.
The CDC warns that are expelled when sick people cough or sneeze.
However, talking can also send the droplets into the air too, Dr. Fineberg told CNN.
Even the breath of a person with coronavirus could be dangerous.
Americans are now advised to stay more than six feet apart from one another to slow the spread of coronavirus, but studies from the University of Nebraska and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that the virus can travel much further.
"If you generate an aerosol of the virus with no circulation in a room, it's conceivable that if you walk through later, you could inhale the virus," Dr. Fineberg said.
"But if you're outside, the breeze will likely disperse it."
Dr. Fineberg said he himself will begin wearing a mask in public as a precaution against contracting the virus, especially in relatively closed spaces like grocery stores.
"I'm not going to wear a surgical mask because clinicians need those," said Dr. Fineberg, who is a former dean of the Harvard School of Public Health.
"But I have a nice western-style bandana I might wear. Or I have a balaclava.
"I have some pretty nice options."