White House considers move to make Americans wear masks outside – but where will they all come from?
- Top government health expert Anthony Fauci says coronavirus task force is discussing new recommendation for use of masks
- He said there may be benefits of having infected people wear face covering to stem transmission
- First the nation must fill urgent needs to get enough masks for hospitals
- ‘That’s under very active consideration’
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Top government infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that coronavirus task force experts were meeting to weigh a recommendation that Americans wear protective masks to slow transmission of the coronavirus.
Fauci said officials would balance competing issues – not only whether there is a sufficient benefit to the public, but the risks of putting a further strain on the desperate push to manufacture protective equipment for medical professionals.
‘That’s under very active consideration. We’ll be discussing it today, this afternoon, at the task force meeting,’ Fauci told CNN Tuesday.
As coronavirus deaths and infections soar, Fauci was asked whether Americans should start wearing masks of the home-made variety or bandanas. He agreed the idea may have merit.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says the coronavirus task force is discussing ‘community-wide use of masks’ to prevent spread of infection
‘The idea of getting a much more broad community-wide use of masks outside of the health care setting is under very active discussion at the task force,’ he said.
He said a group of officials from the Centers for Disease Control ‘is looking at that very carefully.’ But issues of supply are paramount.
‘The thing that has inhibited that a bit is to make sure we don’t take away the supply of masks from the health care workers who need them.
‘But once we get in a situation where we have enough masks, I believe there will be some very serious consideration about more broadening this recommendation of using masks,’ he continued.
‘We’re not there yet, but I think we’re close to coming to some determination.
‘Because if, in fact, a person who may or may not be infected wants to prevent infecting somebody else, the best way to do that is with a mask. Perhaps that’s the way to go,’ he added.
Fauci spoke as the states and federal government are racing to procure masks for hospitals, and FDA officials approved a new method to wash and reuse masks that have come into short supply. A concern is the possibility that Americans, who have taken to hoarding toilet paper and stripping grocery shelves bare, will take masks away from others who need them.
People wearing masks walk past Elmhurst Hospital in the Borough of Queens on March 31, 2020 in New York. Officials are considering changes in recommendations for ordinary Americans in the community
People wait in line, mostly wearing masks, while maintaining social distancing as they wait in line for a COVID-19 test at Elmhurst Hospital Center, New York. 27 March 2020
‘You don’t want to do, you don’t want to take masks away from the health care providers who are in a real and present danger of getting infected. That would be the worst thing we do. If we have them covered, then you could look back and say maybe we need to broaden this,’ Fauci said.
President Donald Trump said Monday the idea of calling for widespread use of masks is ‘certainly something we could discuss,” adding that “it could be something like that for a limited period of time.”
The Washington Post reported Monday that the CDC was considering changes to its official guidance on use of masks. The idea under discussion was for do-it-yourself masks made of cloth or bandanas.
Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb made the recommendation on CBS ‘Face the Nation’ Sunday. ‘A cotton mask — we should be putting out guidelines from the CDC on how you can develop a mask on your own,’ he said.
Gottlieb and other American Enterprise Institute authors included such a recommendation in a new report released Sunday. ‘There is emerging evidence that asymptomatic and presymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 is possible, which complicates efforts to pursue case-based interventions. To reduce this risk during Phase I, everyone, including people without symptoms, should be encouraged to wear nonmedical fabric face masks while in public,’ he said.