With new information about how the virus is spread, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended on Friday that everyone now should cover our faces in public, whether with a mask or otherwise. Yet, public health officials had thus been uncompromising in their stance that healthy people should not wear masks as a way to protect themselves from coronavirus. This is confusing and conflicting from all angles, to say the least.
President Trump said on Friday that the CDC was urging all Americans to wear a mask when they leave their homes. However, he repeatedly called the recommendation voluntary and saying that he would not wear one himself.
“With the masks, it is going to be a voluntary thing,” the President said at the beginning of the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House. “You can do it. You don’t have to do it. I am choosing not to do it. It may be good. It is only a recommendation, voluntary.”
Advocates for mask-wearing applaud the shift for the CDC. They said it should also include a plan for providing masks to the public. For now, commercially-made masks are impossible to find — probably because of hoarders. And since everyone agrees that any available supply of medical masks should be reserved for hospitals or emergency workers if you want a mask, you probably have to make it yourself. Fortunately, though, many manufacturers have shifted their production to making masks.
The Trump administration is close to recommending that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This change in position reflects new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who are asymptomatic and new data that suggests the United States is not yet slowing the rate of infections.
Dr. Paul Pottinger from UW Medicine Infectious Diseases said: “We think by far the most likely way to catch this infection — this COVID-19 — coronavirus infection is actually when you get close to other people who are sick. That’s why it is crucial to maintain the 6 feet rule to keep anything airborne and droplets at a safe distance.”
“Can it be spread airborne? Well, we think it’s almost always spread by small droplets — snot, spit, respiratory secretions when someone is coughing or sneezing. You can find it in the air in smaller droplets,” Dr. Pottinger added.
And COVID-19 is significantly more contagious than the flu: Infectious disease scientists at Fred Hutch say that the “R-Naught” (a measurement indicating the contagiousness of a disease) for flu is about 1.3. In contrast, the ‘R-Naught” for COVID-19 is between 2.5 to 3.5. This means that someone with the flu will infect on average 1.3 persons, whereas a corona-carrier will inflect on average nearly three times more people.
Regarding the next hotspots of the virus, Deborah Brix, the White House’s Coronavirus Response Coordinator said the following after looking at the states with the highest percentage of COVID positives:
“We do have two states that have 35 percent positives, and that’s New York and New Jersey. So that confirms very clearly that that’s a very clear and important hot zone. Louisiana though, has 26 percent of their tests are positive. Michigan, Connecticut, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois — so that should tell you where the next hot spots are coming — are at 15 percent test positive.”
Some of the President’s health advisers have recently argued that restrictions on social interaction and economic activity, which have shut down much of the nation, need to be expanded to all 50 states and that more Americans need to adopt them. The President, by contrast, has characterized the crisis as generally limited to hot spots like New York, California, and Michigan and has expressed no support for a nationwide lockdown. “I would leave it to the governors,” he said on Friday.