Coronavirus outbreak: Should you wear a mask in public?

Coronavirus outbreak: Should you wear a mask in public?
Semi-completed surgical masks made of cotton material lie on a table in a sewing room. You could make your own using simple sewing techniques. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

BOSTON — Information about whether or not the public should be wearing facemasks keeps changing.

During a press conference Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said wearing a mask could offer an extra layer of protection against coronavirus. Boston-based public health experts have been advising that for weeks.

The global health advisors have an extensive background studying public health and epidemiology and say wearing masks can cut down on the spread of COVID-19 by up to 20%.

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"Our blood started boiling a little bit when we heard the surgeon general say, don't wear them because they don't work. I think that was an unfortunate mistake and it's really confused the public," said Robert Hecht, Pharos Global Health President.

Hecht and his wife Shan Soe-Lin say they can only make an educated guess as to why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against wearing masks.

“Our suspicion has been they were really trying to conserve the medical masks that were in such short supply and continue to be, from being hoarded,” said Soe-Lin, Managing Director of Pharos Global Health.

Currently, both the World Health Organization and the CDC say you should only wear a mask if you are sick or caring for someone who is sick, but on Thursday, the White House Task Force said wearing a mask could add extra protection, aiding to the suspicion that the CDC could soon change its guidelines.

“People who are sick with COVID-19 even who are asymptomatic are sneezing and coughing and shedding virus through these blobs,” said Soe-Lin.

The couple says not only do masks prevent spreading and contracting germs, they also help people stop touching their face, which is key to staying healthy from the virus.

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Homemade masks do just the trick. In fact, both Hecht and Soe-Lin strongly advise against using medical masks.

“It’s really, really, really important that people reserve medical masks, meaning the N95s and the surgical masks for our front line health workers. Anyone wearing one of those who is not a health care worker should really be ashamed of themselves,” said Soe-Lin.

Right now, disposable masks used for crafts and painting are available at online retailers like Amazon and Etsy.

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