Cloth masks are recommended so that available medical masks can be reserved for health care providers.
In a departure from previous statements that face masks do not make a difference in the spread of COVID-19, it appears that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are now recommending that people wear cloth face masks when in public.
President Donald Trump announced the recommendation in a press briefing and emphasized that it is a recommendation, not a requirement. In fact, he said that he himself would not be wearing a mask.
Authorities are also asking the public to not wear medical masks, such as N95, as those are in short supply and should be reserved for health care providers. Instead, masks can be simple face coverings made of cloth, even homemade. It is important that the mask cover both one's nose and mouth.
For weeks, Americans have been told that wearing face masks does not make a difference in the spread of COVID-19 unless the person wearing the mask is sick and displaying symptoms. Now, however, more evidence is being found that the spread of the virus is also occurring via asymptomatic carriers and can potentially spread via breathing or talking.
Read the full CDC announcement here:
Recommendation Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings, Especially in Areas of Significant Community-Based Transmission
CDC continues to study the spread and effects of the novel coronavirus across the United States. We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus. CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. 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 cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.
This recommendation complements and does not replace the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America, 30 Days to Slow the Spread, which remains the cornerstone of our national effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. CDC will make additional recommendations as the evidence regarding appropriate public health measures continues to develop.
The United States is gearing up for the projected peak of the coronavirus pandemic, which is expected to hit in mid-April, by some reports. In addition to wearing masks, it is vital that the public continue to implement social distancing to help flatten the curve.