As the numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to increase dramatically, the CDC is now thinking about issuing a guidance saying that anyone who ventures out in public should be wearing some kind of mask.
According to recent reports, the agency is weighing recommendations to advise people to shield their faces with cloth coverings rather than surgical or N95 masks, which are now nearly impossible to come by.
No final decision has been made on the potential recommendation, however, an official said it could help “flatten the curve” of the outbreak if enacted.
Early on in the outbreak, the World Health Organization and the CDC repeatedly said that ordinary citizens do not need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. And as healthcare workers around the world face shortages of N95 masks and protective gear, public health officials have warned people not to hoard masks.
But those official guidelines may be shifting.
President Trump appeared to be open to the possibility of all Americans wearing face masks for a short period of time. He made the following comments on the matter, during his most recent COVID-19 briefing.
“So we’ll take a look at it for a period of time, not forever. I mean, you know, we want our country back. We’re not gonna be wearing masks forever, but it could be for a very short period of time after we get back into gear.”
Medical masks are urgently needed by professionals fighting the virus, but facial cloth coverings could potentially reduce the chances a person spreads the illness to others.
Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, confirmed in an interview with National Public Radio that the agency was reviewing its guidelines on who should wear masks. Citing new data that shows high rates of transmission from people who are infected but show no symptoms, he said the guidance on mask wearing was “being critically re-reviewed, to see if there’s potential additional value for individuals that are infected or individuals that may be asymptomatically infected.”
However, the CDC has yet to make any kind of official recommendation. They understand that widespread use of nonmedical masks could reduce community transmission. But recommending their broad use could also cause a run on the kinds of masks that health care workers so desperately need.