CDC COVID-19

The Center for Disease Control is now recommending that everyone should wear a cloth face covering when out in public places to protect others in case they are unknowingly infected with the virus.

Late Friday night, the agency updated its consumer-facing web page for COVID-19 self-protection as follows:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • -You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.
  • Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.
  • Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.
  • Do NOT use a facemask meant for a healthcare worker.
  • Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.

Because there is currently no vaccine nor approved treatment, the agency stressed that the best strategy for preventing illness is still to avoid exposure to the virus. Even asymptomatic people can spread coronavirus to others, the CDC stressed.

During a White House briefing on Friday evening, President Trump underscored the CDC's advice to Americans who are not clinicians, that they not wear "medical-grade or surgical-grade" masks. These are now in shortage at many hospitals, forcing administrators to adopt last-ditch strategies to extend supplies.

But Trump said he has no plans to follow the recommendation himself to wear a mask in public. "I'm choosing not to do it," he said at the Friday briefing.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is transmitted primarily through person-to-person contact from people who are in close contact, meaning less than 6-feet apart; through respiratory droplets, projected in a sneeze or cough that land in the mouths and noses of people nearby and can be inhaled into their lungs, but importantly the virus can also be transmitted through talking.

Researchers reported earlier in the week that the coronavirus could be spread through normal breathing and speech. Large droplets remain one method of transmission, when they are inhaled by a person nearby or through contact with a contaminated surface and later touching one's face. However, researchers noted that tiny particles in the air can also carry the virus.

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, recommended last weekend that "everyone, including people without symptoms, should be encouraged to wear nonmedical fabric face masks while in public."

While asymptomatic transmission of the virus outside of China was discovered in late January, White House officials had initially suggested that it was not an important driver of transmission. "You really need to just focus on the individuals that are symptomatic," HHS Secretary Alex Azar told ABC News in March.

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