Admin May Promote Using Face Masks 04/03 06:20
The Trump administration is formalizing new guidance to recommend that many
Americans wear face coverings in an effort to slow the spread of the new
coronavirus, as the president is aggressively defending his response to the
public health crisis.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Trump administration is formalizing new guidance to
recommend that many Americans wear face coverings in an effort to slow the
spread of the new coronavirus, as the president is aggressively defending his
response to the public health crisis.
The recommendations, still being finalized Thursday, were expected to apply
to those who live in areas hard-hit by community transmission of the virus that
causes COVID-19. A person familiar with the White House coronavirus task
force's discussion said officials would suggest that non-medical masks,
T-shirts or bandannas be used to cover the nose and mouth when outside the home
--- for instance, at the grocery store or pharmacy. Medical-grade masks,
particularly short-in-supply N95 masks, would be reserved for those dealing
directly with the sick.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the proposed guidance
before its public release.
President Donald Trump, who was tested again for coronavirus Thursday using
a new rapid test, indicated he would support such a recommendation. "If people
wanted to wear them, they can," he said.
"It's not a bad idea, at least for a period of time," Trump had said earlier
in the week.
The White House said Trump's latest test returned a negative result in 15
minutes, and said Trump was "healthy and without symptoms."
Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force's coordinator, told reporters the White
House was concerned that the mask guidance would lead to a "false sense of
security" for Americans. She said new data show that the administration's
social-distancing guidelines were not being followed to the extent necessary to
keep virus-related deaths to a minimum.
The discussions on face masks came as the White House moved aggressively to
defend its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly its efforts to
speed the distribution of ventilators and protective equipment needed by
Trump sent a politically tinged letter to Senate Democratic leader Chuck
Schumer of New York objecting to his criticism of the administration's
response. "The Federal Government is merely a back-up for state governments,"
Trump wrote. "Unfortunately, your state needed far more of a back-up than most
Trump said states should have done more to stockpile medical supplies before
Vice President Mike Pence also announced Thursday that the White House was
considering direct payments to hospitals to cover COVID-19 treatment costs for
The emerging guidance on masks appeared to be more limited than a Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention draft of the guidance, which suggested the
recommendation apply to nearly all Americans, all over the country, according
to a federal official who has seen the draft but was not authorized to discuss
Officials were expected to limit its geographic scope to just those areas
where the virus was spreading rapidly, the official said. The formal
announcement was expected as soon as Friday.
Under the previous guidance, only the sick or those at high risk of
complications from the respiratory illness were advised to wear masks. The new
proposal was driven by research showing that some infections are being spread
by people who seem to be healthy.
On Wednesday, Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, urged his city's 4
million residents to wear masks when they're in public. On Thursday, New York
City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed suit in his city, the epicenter of the
virus' spread in the U.S.
In response to recent studies, the CDC on Wednesday changed how it was
defining the risk of infection for Americans. It essentially says anyone may be
a considered a carrier, whether they have symptoms or not.
The virus spreads mostly through droplets from coughs or sneezes, though
experts stress that the germ is still not fully understood.
U.S. officials have been telling people to stay at home as much as possible,
and keep at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from others when they do go out. Other
advice includes frequent hand washing and not touching your face.
But until now federal officials have stopped short of telling people to
cover their faces out in public.
Scientists can't rule out that infected people sometimes exhale COVID-19
virus particles, rather than just when coughing or sneezing, but there isn't
enough evidence to show if that can cause infection, according to a committee
convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to
advise the White House.
The question has to do with whether the new coronavirus spreads mostly by
droplets that don't linger for long in the air, or also by tinier "aerosolized"
particles. Certain medical procedures, such as inserting breathing tubes, can
create those tiny particles, which is why health care workers wear
close-fitting N95 masks during such care.
The committee cited one study that detected airborne viral RNA in and just
outside some hospital isolation rooms, but noted that it was unclear if that
could infect someone.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams has repeatedly admonished Americans
not to wear face masks, saying they don't prevent the people who wear them from
catching the virus. He and other officials have stressed that surgical face
masks and other protective medical equipment have been in short supply and must
be prioritized for people such as health-care workers.
The World Health Organization on Monday reiterated its advice that the
general population doesn't need to wear masks unless they're sick. Since the
epidemic began in China, the WHO has said masks are for the sick and people
caring for them.
"There is no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the
mass population has any particular benefit," WHO's epidemic chief Dr. Mike Ryan
said during a news conference. "In fact, there's some evidence to suggest the
opposite," he added, noting risks from an improperly fitted mask or improperly
putting it on or taking it off.
That's in addition to the problem that health care workers who do need masks
are facing "a massive global shortage," Ryan said. "The thought of them not
having masks is horrific, so we have to be very careful on supply, but that is
not the primary reason why WHO has advised against using masks."
Many people have taken it upon themselves to make their own masks, but one
North Carolina health system found that such DIY products vary in how well they
work. Wake Forest Baptist Health doctors and scientists tested 13 different
designs made by community volunteers. They found that some were better at
filtering than off-the-shelf surgical masks but others were barely better than
wearing no mask at all.
Separately, a 2013 study tested whether homemade masks might help during a
flu pandemic. It found surgical masks were three times more effective in
catching droplets from coughing people than masks made from cotton T-shirts,
though it's not clear if the new coronavirus behaves exactly like flu viruses.