Health officials who have previously urged Americans not to wear faces masks unless they’re ill are now discussing if the public should wear them as a way to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.
The coronavirus outbreak has prompted Americans to don surgical, cotton or even makeshift masks when they leave the home to buy groceries or exercise with the majority of the US now in various stages of lockdown due to the pandemic.
Despite the CDC and the World Health Organization recommending that healthy people don’t need masks, some health experts are advocating for the need to wear some form of mask out in public to reduce the risk of asymptomatic spreading.
They argue that people who have no idea they are infected are spreading the virus because they either have no symptoms or have not begun to experience symptoms.
Healthcare workers, however, are currently facing shortages of personal protective equipment – including N95 respirator masks and surgical masks – as they treat the onslaught of highly contagious patients.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top coronavirus expert, said on Tuesday that when the US gets into a situation where there are enough masks there would be very serious consideration about broadening the recommendations of face masks.
The possible shift in guidance comes as the virus continues spread rapidly across the country with more than 180,000 cases and over 41,000 deaths as of Tuesday.
It has prompted questions as to who should actually be wearing masks out in public and what to do if a person can’t actually find one due to the current shortages.
The coronavirus outbreak has prompted Americans to don surgical, cotton or even makeshift masks when they leave the home to buy groceries or exercise with the majority of the US now in various stages of lockdown due to the pandemic. Pictured above is the New York subway on Tuesday
Who should be wearing masks?
The current official guidance from both the CDC and the World Health Organization urges people who are healthy to avoid using masks due to the ongoing shortage for doctors and nurses.
Out the healthcare setting, people who are healthy are urged to wear masks if they are caring for a person who has or is suspected of having coronavirus.
Others are asked to wear masks out in public if they are coughing or sneezing – given they are some of the symptoms of having the coronavirus.
How to wear masks to protect against coronavirus?
The WHO says that masks are only effective for the general public when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning, including with alcohol-based sanitizer or soap and water.
Health officials say that if people choose to wear a mask, it is important to know how to use it and dispose of it correctly.
The US Surgeon General Jerome Adams has previously warned that healthy people who don’t know how to wear a mask correctly can actually increase their risk of being infected.
The risks increase because people wearing masks are likely to touch their face more often than others to make adjustments.
The WHO has a list of recommendations for safely wearing masks, including putting it on with clean hands.
They advise to make sure the mask is covering both the mouth and nose and to make sure there are no gaps between the face and mask.
People are urged not to touch the mask while wearing it and, if they do, to immediately wash their hands.
To remove the mask, health officials warn that people should avoid touching the front of the mask and should instead take it off from the side closest to the mouth. People are advised to throw single-use masks away immediately and to then wash their hands.
The current official guidance from the CDC (above) urges people who are healthy to avoid using masks due to the ongoing shortage for doctors and nurses
The World Health Organization has a list of recommendations for safely wearing and removing masks to avoid the risk of infection
WEARING MASKS: THE WORLD HEALTH ORG’S ADVICE
When to use a mask:
If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection.
Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.
How to wear medical masks to protect against coronavirus:
Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks.
To remove the mask: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
What to do if there are no masks available?
The CDC currently has advice on its website for healthcare professionals to help them deal with situations where face masks are not available. The same advice can be implemented by the public.
Heath officials say that when masks are unavailable, homemade masks should be used as a last resort.
Homemade masks include a bandana or scarf covering a person’s mouth and nose.
Officials do, however, warn that homemade masks are not considered personal protective equipment and caution should be used when using this option.
There are also cases across the country where people have opted to sew their own DIY masks with a t-shirt or kitchen towel due to the shortage.
Past studies have also shown that vacuum cleaner bags can be used to make homemade masks.
When masks aren’t available, the CDC also advises health professionals to use some form of face shield that covers the entire front and sides of the face.
Is there any evidence that face masks actually work?
Research on how much protection face masks provides varies but, recently, experts are increasingly leaning toward the notion that something is better than nothing.
Research published by the University of Oxford published on March 30 concluded that surgical masks were just as effective at preventing respiratory infections as N95 masks for doctors, nurses and other health care workers.
While it is too early to tell if those masks can prevent infection in relation to coronavirus, the study found that thinner, cheaper masks worked in flu outbreaks.
The difference between surgical or face masks and the N95 masks lies in the size of particles that are able to get through the material.
N95 respirators are made of thick, tightly woven, molded material that fits over the face and can stop 95 percent of all airborne particles. Surgical masks are thinner, fit more loosely and have more holes – meaning they are less effective at stopping small particles from entering the nose and mouth.
Research on how much protection face masks provides varies but, recently, experts are increasingly leaning toward the notion that something is better than nothing. A man wearing a face mask jogs in Venice Beach, California on Saturday
A crowd of people lined up wearing face masks outside a Whole Foods in Harlem, New York on Tuesday
A Pat’s Farms grocery store worker wears a mask and plastic visor on Tuesday in Merrick, New York. When masks aren’t available, the CDC has advised health professionals to use some form of face shield that covers the entire front and sides of the face
Will health officials change the guidance for face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic?
US health officials said on Tuesday they are discussing whether to recommend that the general public wear face masks as a way to prevent transmission of the new coronavirus but that it was too soon to take that step.
Dr Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease experts, said the use of masks outside the healthcare setting is under active consideration by the CDC and that the White House coronavirus task force would discuss it on Tuesday.
‘The thing that has inhibited that bit is to make sure that we don’t take away the supply of masks from the healthcare workers who need them,’ Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN.
When the country gets into a situation where there are enough masks, Fauci said, there will be very serious consideration of broadening the recommendation on face masks.
‘We’re not there yet but I think we’re coming close to some determination, because if in fact a person who may or may not be infected wants to prevent infecting someone else, one of the best ways to do that is with a mask,’ Dr Fauci said.
The consideration of wider use of masks stems from the likelihood that people who have no idea they are infected are spreading the virus because they either have no symptoms or have not begun to experience symptoms.
US Surgeon General Jerome Adams cautioned that wearing surgical-type cotton masks may not protect healthy Americans from contracting coronavirus and may even put them more at risk.
‘Wearing a mask improperly can actually increase your risk of getting disease. It can also give you a false sense of security,’ Adams told Fox News, adding that the CDC was looking at data involving the cotton masks.
‘The data doesn’t show that it helps individuals,’ he said. ‘If you’re sick, wear a mask. If you have a mask and it makes you feel better then by all means wear it. But know that the more you touch your face the more you put yourself at risk.
‘There may be a day when we change our recommendations – particularly for areas that have large spread going on – about wearing cotton masks… But again, the data’s not there yet.’
Who is pushing for the guidance to change?
The idea is being pushed by some health experts, including Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration.
In a pandemic roadmap for the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank published on Sunday, Gottlieb advocated for people, even those without symptoms, to wear non-medical masks during this initial phase of rapid community transmission.
He called for the public to ‘initially be asked to wear fabric nonmedical face masks while in the community to reduce their risk of asymptomatic spread’.
Gottlieb told CBS on Sunday that the CDC should be issuing guidelines on how people can make adequate DIY masks so it would take away from the healthcare workers on the front line.
On the issue of face masks, President Donald Trump said at the White House coronavirus briefing on Monday that ‘it’s certainly something we could discuss’.
‘After we get back into gear, people could – I could see something like that happening for a period of time, but I would hope it would be a very limited period of time,’ Trump said.
Inside Ford factory making 100,000 face shields each week to assist healthcare workers in the fight against coronavirus – as auto giant also pledges to make 50,000 ventilators by Independence Day
By Andrew Court for DailyMail.com
Ford is giving a look inside its Michigan factory where workers are producing 100,000 face shields per week to help protect healthcare workers on the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak.
On Tuesday, employee Pat Tucker took the Today Show inside the auto giant’s million-square foot facility in Dearborn where staff work 10 hours a day, seven days a week producing the shields.
The grandmother, 55, sits spaced out from her co-workers as they construct the face shields – with one being assembled every 10 seconds. They are made from components produced in Ford’s 3D printers.
Ford says it will soon be able to ship 40,000 shields per day – a godsend for doctors and nurses who face a critical shortage of protective equipment that helps reduce their chances of contracting COVID-19.
On Tuesday, Ford employee Pat Tucker took the Today Show inside the auto giant’s million-square foot facility in Dearborn where she works 10 hours a day, seven days a week producing face shields for healthcare workers on the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak
‘I’d rather save lives than sit at home,’ Tucker told the NBC program, stressing that the factory has implemented proper health precautions.
‘I’m happy to help, if they get another idea for us to make something, I’m going to be here,’ she added.
Meanwhile, Ford is repurposing a separate factory west of Detroit to start building simple ventilators to treat coronavirus patients.
The automaker says that starting the week of April 20, it expects to produce 50,000 by Independence Day on July 4.
Some 500 United Auto Workers union members will be working around the clock to complete the mammoth assignment at the facility.
The ventilators are designed by Airon Corp, and Ford says they will work on air pressure, rather than electricity, and can handle the needs of most COVID-19 patients.
The grandmother, 55, sits spaced out from her co-workers as they construct the face shields – with one being assembled every 10 seconds
Meanwhile, the auto giant is also working with GE Healthcare to quickly double production of a more sophisticated ventilator at a factory in Madison, Wisconsin.
Fellow automarker General Motors is gearing up to produce ventilators at their factory in Kokomo, Indiana.
A thousand employees are working to produce 10,000 critical care ventilators per month in collaboration with, Ventec Life Systems, a small manufacturer of the machines.
Although the collaboration began back on March 19, President Trump publicly lashed out at the auto giant Friday claiming that the company wasn’t working fast enough.
‘As usual with ‘this’ General Motors, things just never seem to work out. They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed Ventilators, ‘very quickly’. Now they are saying it will only be 6000, in late April, and they want top dollar,’ he blasted.