dir=”ltr”>According to The Washington Post, CDC officials are currently considering a change to the official guidance that would encourage Americans to cover their faces during the coronavirus pandemic.
When the new measures are introduced, the CDC would make it clear that the public should not use medical masks such as surgical and N95 masks needed by hospitals – and are in short supply.
A second official, according to the report, suggested that Americans will be told to use homemade fabric-based masks to cover their faces when outside.
Whilst even self-made fabric masks could reduce the risk that wearer would pass on the virus to others, existing CDC advice says that healthy people do need to mask their faces.
On Monday, Donald Trump told reporters at the White House that asking the public to wear masks was “certainly something we could discuss,” adding: “it could be something like that for a limited period of time.”
Scientists and experts have suggested that the rate of transmission of the virus could be reduced with widespread use of face coverings.
Thomas Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, pointed out that mask wearing has been seen as a social responsibility in East Asia during the outbreak, where authorities have seen fewer confirmed cases.
He tweeted: “Face masks are used widely by the public in places that have successfully managed their outbreaks, including Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan.”
Mr Inglesby cautioned that all non-medical masks should be sourced for hospitals, and called on the CDC to issue guidelines on how to make non-medical fabric face masks at home.
Other medical professionals have warned that face mask use should not be encouraged.
Jeffrey Duchin, a senior health official in Seattle, told The Washington Post the state’s health department does not recommend that healthy individuals wear masks.
He explained: “It’s also possible that mask-wearing might increase the risk for infection if other recommendations (like hand washing and distancing) are less likely to be followed or if the mask is contaminated and touched.”
The Seattle official added that “well-designed” self-made masks that did not reduce the supply needed for healthcare staff “could potentially provide protection”.
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