The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has suddenly made a U-turn on its position regarding the wearing of face masks during the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday, the CDC recommended that citizens should wear “non-medical, cloth masks” to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Previously, the CDC had recommended that only those with Covid-19 symptoms wear masks. The agency now recommends that those who aren’t feeling sick should still wear a mask, though compliance is voluntary.
This is very important to the entire world because the argument on whether the wearing of face mask as a way of preventing the spread of coronavirus had left many people confused especially based on the position held by bodies like the CDC and WHO. Recall that Massmediang published an article on why you should wear face mask to avoid contracting coronavirus, after Dr. Sanjay Gupta of the CNN had thrown more light on the essence of wearing face mask against the advice by World Health Organisation (WHO) asking healthy people not to wear mask. Shortly after that position by the WHO, the CDC made a U-turn on its position on the same issue, now asking people to voluntarily wear face masks as a way of preventive the spread of coronavirus. Now that the CDC has changed its position on the issue, people will probably begin to take the wearing of face masks seriously. Federal health officials in the US decided to change their guidance in response to a growing body of evidence that people who do not appear to be sick are playing an outsized role in the covid-19 pandemic.
“The transmission from individuals without symptoms is playing a more significant role in the spread of the virus than previously understood,” President Donald Trump said on Friday when announcing the new advice at a White House briefing. “So you don’t seem to have symptoms and it still gets transferred.”
In a statement on its website, the CDC says: “Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.”
The word “additional” is key here. This is because sheltering in place (what some people erroneously refer to as self isolation) is still the most effective way to protect yourself and those in your community, and the agency recommends maintaining 6-fot social distancing as the primary method of reducing exposure.
This new policy comes on the heels of new research about how the virus is transmitted, and with cases on the rise across the US, there’s some evidence that people who aren’t showing any symptoms can still be spreading the virus as they move about in public.
This week, cities like New York and Los Angeles have also recommended that all residents wear face coverings in public, whether they’re showing signs of sickness or not. Specific guidance has been issued for Los Angeles (and California as a whole) and New York City.
These policy recommendations are happening at a time when surgical face masks and N95 masks are already in critically short supply. This scarcity of protective equipment has been devastating for health care workers busy treating patients, and many fear that a nationwide decree to wear a mask could strain supplies even more.
If you live in a community where masks are recommended, or if you are caring for a loved one who’s currently sick, you should make your own mask. Do not buy N95 masks, and absolutely do not hoard supplies that medical professionals need.
It’s important to remember that cloth face coverings like those recommended by California’s Department of Public Heath may help unknowingly infected people from transmitting the virus, but there is no guarantee they can prevent a healthy person from becoming infected.
It is pertinent to also note that wearing a face mask is not the best option in the fight against the spread of coronavirus. It is a last-resort measure. This means that a mask is not a virus-blocking solution that will allow you to return to normal social interactions. There is still need to stay home as much as possible until shelter-in-place (what is referred to in Nigeria as the stay-at-home) orders have lifted.
You might be asking the big question: “So what should I wear?” According to the CDC, a well-made mask that is snugly secured around the ears is best. Alternatively, any type of face covering like a bandana or scarf is better than nothing if you have to go out, although the CDC cautions that these are not considered proper protective gear and should only be used as a last resort. In either case, you want to be sure your nose and mouth are securely covered from all sides so droplets can’t escape.
This is a very important advice as the world struggles to flatten the curve in the spread of the coronavirus.