CDC Director: Cloth Masks ‘May’ Help Prevent Coronavirus Spread

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Bechir Kaddech via Unsplash

Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on Monday said a cloth mask “may” help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but he did not release a definitive statement on its purported effectiveness.

Cloth face coverings may help prevent the spread of #COVID19 when they are widely used in public settings. When you wear a face covering, you help protect those around you. When others wear one, they help protect people around them, including you,” Redfield said, linking to the CDC guidance on cloth masks:

“CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,” the website reads, again stating only that such masks “may” help prevent the spread of the virus but providing no definitive statements.

Nonetheless, the CDC is “strongly” encouraging individuals over the age of two to wear cloth face coverings while souring on the use of face shields, contending that it is “not known if face shields provide any benefit as source control to protect others from the spray of respiratory particles.”

Surgical masks, the CDC continued, should be reserved for medical workers and first responders. The CDC also admits cloth masks are not a suitable replacement for medical-grade masks, casting further doubt on the call for widespread, homemade face coverings.

“Cloth face coverings also are not appropriate substitutes for them in workplaces where masks or respirators are recommended or required and available,” the CDC said.

The CDC did not initially recommend Americans to wear cloth masks in public at the start of the pandemic, making the recommendation in early April.

“The CDC is advising the use of nonmedical cloth face covering as an additional voluntary public health measure,” Trump said. “So it’s voluntary,” President Trump said at the time. “You don’t have to do it.”

A recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine suggests use of masks outside health care facilities “offers little, if any, protection from infection.”

The Journal cited public health authorities who “define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes).”

“The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal,” the journal concluded. “In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.”

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