Coronavirus: Do we all need to wear masks? The CDC is considering it

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering a plan to urge Americans to cover their faces if they go out in an attempt to slow the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a story in The Washington Post.

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The Post, citing two unnamed federal officials, reported that the CDC is now debating whether people in the United States should use some sort of cloth covering their nose and mouth if they leave their homes.

According to the story, if the CDC changes its recommendation that everyone should be covering their face, it would recommend that people fashion their own masks and not use surgical masks or other types of masks that are currently in short supply across the country.

At the beginning of the outbreak, the CDC said it “does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19."

”You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask)," the CDC’s website says. “Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.”

The CDC, the World Health Organization and other health care agencies have stressed that healthy people do not need the masks to prevent being infected, but people who are ill should be wearing a mask to try to prevent the spread of the virus to others.

According to the Post, if the CDC updates its advice on masks, it will not suggest that people use surgical masks or N-95 masks (those are masks that are fitted to a person’s face and block out up to 95 percent of airborne particles), but rather they should fashion their own masks out of material they have on hand. Several news stories and videos have been posted online showing people how to make masks at home.

While the CDC may be reconsidering its stance on masks, the country’s top doctor, Surgeon General Jerome Adams urged people last month not to buy up the supply of masks."Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!" Adams tweeted.

“They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus.”

Others, such as Scott Gottlieb, the former Trump Administration’s commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, think a change in policy would be a step in the right direction.

Gottlieb helped author a pandemic-response plan that was published Sunday. According to the plan, “everyone, including people without symptoms, should be encouraged to wear nonmedical fabric face masks while in public.”

Gottlieb said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that people can make a cotton mask and that the CDC should be putting out guidelines for how to make them.

“A cotton mask- we should be putting out guidelines from the CDC on how you can develop a mask on your own. It might create a secondary market on Etsy or other sites for selling those kinds of masks,” Gottlieb said.

According to the Post story, the medical journal Lancet suggested that masks should be used under certain circumstances.

“It would be reasonable to suggest vulnerable individuals avoid crowded areas and use surgical face masks rationally when exposed to high-risk areas. As evidence suggests COVID-19 could be transmitted before symptom onset, community transmission might be reduced if everyone, including people who have been infected but are asymptomatic and contagious, wears face masks.”

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