CDC reviewing guidelines on wearing masks to protect against the spread of COVID-19

BOSTON — When the spread of COVID-19 was still in it’s early stages, shortly after it was considered a global pandemic, health organizations and officials across the board defended not everyone should be wearing masks.

The idea behind asking only those who were at high risk of infection or at high risk to infect others to wear the mask was because of the shortage of medical supplies, namely the masks. Now, however, as the spread continues to get worse, the recommendation might be changing.

The science behind how the masks work and whether or not they can prevent someone from catching the deadly virus has not changed, but what has changed is the approach to transmission.

As more and more people work to make their own masks or take the time to make or donate existing masks to medical workers, the CDC is now considering asking anyone to wear a mask while out in public to help reduce the transmission of the virus.

Dr. Michael Gibson, a Harvard professor and doctor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, showed Boston 25 News how you can create your own mask to avoid worsening the shortage of medical masks for health care workers and those who are sick.

Gibson says it’s about respecting others, saying he doesn’t see a reason why everyone shouldn’t be on board.

“We’re not talking about you wearing a surgical mask, we’re talking about you possibly making a homemade mask,” said Gibson." "I got this HEPA filter out at the department store put it on your face, put plenty of tape around it and then you can put a t-shirt over your head and around your mouth.”

Gibson says you should also wear goggles and use copper wiring to keep the mask on your nose since the virus cannot live on copper.

“[People should use masks] really out of respect for other people, really to prevent the droplets from going to them to everyone else," said Gibson. “Many people may be asymptomatic with coronavirus this is meant to prevent them from spreading the disease.”

If the CDC changes its recommendation on wearing masks, Gibson says it’s crucial that people don’t go on a hoarding spree of surgical and N95 masks that are already in desperately short supply and are needed by healthcare workers.

“Personally I don’t think issues of supply should inform the science, if there were plenty of masks around, people would be wearing masks," said Gibson. “[It’s less about] protecting you and more protecting others from you.”

Other infectious disease experts have publicly voiced concern against widespread use of facial coverings, saying they worry it could give people a false sense of security and also raising questions about the lack of scientific evidence supporting it.

For those who do make their own masks, Gibson says it’s important that they are changed and washed often.