For weeks now, government officials have aggressively advised the public that wearing face coverings to slow the spread of coronavirus is unnecessary and perhaps ineffective.
However, now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the White House have agreed to reverse the advisory, with President Trump announcing on Friday that “non-medical face coverings” should be used as an “additional voluntary public health measure.”
Run on masks
Virtually every health expert who has spoken to this point has stated that masks are not really helpful for the general public to wear.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams ordered Americans to stop wearing masks on Feb. 29, tweeting, “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”
An early run on surgical masks and N95 respirators caused a shortage long before social distancing guidelines were released, and it’s clear that the CDC was attempting to preserve what small stock was still available.
However, because the virus spreads via droplets and possibly even aerosolized particles, the practice of wearing some sort of face covering in locations that continue to remain crowded, such as grocery stores, is becoming commonplace.
Trump stated during his Friday coronavirus briefing, “The CDC is advising the use of nonmedical cloth face covering as an additional voluntary public health measure. So, it’s voluntary. You don’t have to do it.”
He further added, “Medical protective gear must be reserved for the frontline healthcare workers that are performing these vital services,” which was obviously an attempt to ensure that people don’t start hoarding the masks that health care workers need.
Officials in Laredo, Texas have taken a more hardline approach to the new guidelines, ordering all residents over the age of five to cover their nose and mouth in public or risk a fine of up to $1,000.
Because there remains a shortage of facial masks, President Trump has mentioned some alternatives that can be used instead.
He has repeatedly suggesting using a scarf and believes that it will offer far more protection for people than wearing nothing at all. Experts have also recommended using a bandana as a face covering if left with no other options.
First lady Melania Trump has also spoken out on the new guidelines via Twitter.
As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously. #COVID19 is a virus that can spread to anyone – we can stop this together.
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) April 3, 2020