Everyone should wear face 'masks' in public, CDC now recommends

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People should wear nonsurgical cloth face coverings when they go out in public during the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended today (April 3).

"Most people could just make something out of a certain material," President Donald Trump said at a news conference today. "It's very simple to do." However, he added that "I won't be doing it personally. It's a recommendation."

The U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams acknowledged that the government's guidance on masks "has been confusing to the American people," he said at the news conference. Until now, the CDC had recommended that while health care workers and "people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms" should wear face masks, healthy people should don masks only when taking care of someone who was ill with the new coronavirus. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the same.

Related: Latest COVID-19 news and US case counts

"Based on the best evidence available at the time, it was not deemed that that would have a significant impact on whether or not a healthy person wearing a mask would contract COVID-19," Adams said. 

However, as more knowledge about the virus has come to light, it became apparent that asymptomatic people could be spreading the virus. Up to 25% of people with COVID-19 may not show symptoms, the CDC found. Moreover, a new small study found that COVID-19 may be most infectious when symptoms are mildest, meaning that people may be spreading the virus before realizing they have it.

"This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity — for example, speaking, coughing or sneezing — even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms," the CDC said in a news statement today. "In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain."

Under the new recommendation, healthy individuals are advised to wear mouth and nose face coverings — including homemade masks, scarves or bandanas — when they go to a public area, such as the grocery store or a pharmacy.

As before, the CDC does not recommend that the public wear N95 respirators, which filter out 95% of particles in the air. These masks are in short supply, and they should be reserved for health care workers who are exposed to the virus on a daily basis, the CDC said. Nor should the public wear surgical masks, which are also needed by healthcare workers, the CDC said.

Due to the limited supply, some health care workers are now reusing their N95 respirators, even though these respirators are designed for single use only.

"[Surgical masks and N95 respirators] are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders," the CDC said.

Even with the N95 respirator off the table for the public, there are still plenty of options available. Live Science covered the efficacy of homemade masks, finding that they're not as good as surgical masks, but still act as physical barriers against viral droplets. 

If you wear a homemade cloth mask, scarf or bandana, remember to wash your hands before you put it on, Adams said. Also, you should wash cloth masks after each use and to always put the same side against your face, so you're not placing the outside, or the "contaminated side" against your mouth and nose, according to Anna Davies, a researcher at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, whose research showed that surgical masks were three times more effective at blocking microorganisms compared with homemade face masks.

Davies also recommended removing the mask by the straps, so the wearer does not touch the contaminated part covering their face. 

Now that the CDC is recommending face coverings for anyone going out in public, more people will undoubtedly begin wearing them. But the public shouldn't let masks give them a false sense of security. The CDC still recommends that people stay at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) away from others, and some experts think that even more distance is needed

Originally published on Live Science.

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  • atikovi
    Would be more effective and less intrusive for people to take their temperature every 2-4 hours when out in public. Since fever is the most common symptom of the virus, you could self-quarantine at the first sign of an elevated temperature until the cause could be determined.
  • Ironman
    USSG Adams knew the extreme level of contagion months ago, that people were shedding virus long before they felt sick, and this was documented overseas many times but they chose to ignore that data. He and the CDC insisted that no one wear or buy masks. That decision created an environment that allow the virus to run amok. Anyone who has lived overseas for any length of time knows that any covering helps. USSG needs to own it. Then move on.
  • Patriot36
    Lessons learned from china's neighbors the west must heed. Please note what 2 particular entities these countries do not trust when they make their decisions.
    gAk7aX5hksUView: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAk7aX5hksU
    uAaDC0lv13sView: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAaDC0lv13s
    sae9AIx1wp0View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sae9AIx1wp0

    The US and Europe did not suffer the SARS outbreak and did not have the pain and suffering experience like these china's neighboring countries to prepare and behave like them.

    To add insult to injury, the US unfortunately has been a divided country. Its government has spent 3.5 years of attention and focus on Russia gate and then impeachment attempts. Its president has been picked on and maligned every day since he took office. The news media is mostly owned by the CCP. The manufacturing of critical supplies have been moved overseas since the Clinton years and have only slowed since 2017. Congress put managed decline agenda ahead of everything else while its members remain in power. State level leadership and Office of Emergency Services have largely fallen as sleep as they head into pensioned retirements (e.g. no acceptable excuse for tens of millions of N95s in California's emergency stock pile to be unusable readily in times of needs... Gov. Jerry Brown? Pensions? Tax increases?)

    Live and learn. Learn and live. Let's hope this SARS CoV2 will have done the teaching for the west that SARS did for the east since this will not be the last bio attack.
  • Tommy Shenanigans
    I knew the "experts" were full of it back then and have suspected they're peddling more bs with "we know the virus can not be man made". Interesting to compare populations and wonder how the US and NATO countries have dramatically surpassed China in transimission and cases. Maybe there's another market in New York City accountable for the sudden escalation in deaths there. Maybe the ducks in Central Park? Nontheless, a perfectly conducted covert bioweapon release while simultaneously curing the overpopulation problem in China. Will Trump finally get to push the big red button? Or maybe use some of our lovely leftover (bio-weapons) products from Johnston Atoll.
  • woof
    I saw this interesting video recently about the Coronavirus and the fear it causes. This video is definitely good news in the middle of all this uncertainty.

    Does the Corona-virus make you think more about death?
  • Laura Frazier
    If you are looking for good quality masks, at a normal price starting from 0,50$, check out our site at fibostore.com
  • Tangential
    From the outside looking in, it doesn't seem like there is much real science behind this recommendation. Lots of studies have been done on hand washing and that is documented to reduce infections. Organizations are quick to point out that various drugs being bandied about or antibody tests, etc haven't been through stringent vetting (with double blinds, placebos, etc) and shouldn't be used. As far as I can tell, this recommendation is based on purely anecdotal evidence like "things went better in Taiwan and they wore masks". We don't really have any idea if this will help or not.
  • mike05
    I wanted to buy N95 mask for myself. Just wanted to know if we face any difficulty breathing while doing aerobic exercises. Also wanted to know about the effectiveness of valved N95 masks.
  • sarajo
    Over here in the UK IT is MANDATORY to wear masks in public places such as stores, doctors surgeries etc

    I wear mine when out horseriding or cycling although generally if people are going out & about in the streets people arent wearing them (beause theyre ot in an enclosed rea)