As you’re probably aware, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released some new guidelines late last week regarding face masks. They’re now recommending that everyone (except for children under the age of 2) wear some kind of protective face covering in public.
Previous guidelines stated that only medical workers, care givers, or people displaying symptoms needed to wear face masks. Unfortunately, as infection rates spike - especially in urban areas - those measures haven’t been as effective at flattening the curve as the experts had hoped.
What’s prompted this change in the recommendations? Well, data is still coming in as scientists continue to observe the coronavirus. Recent studies have shown that people who show no symptoms are still able to carry and transmit the virus to others. This means that the virus can easily be spread in places where it’s hard to maintain distance from others, like pharmacies and grocery stores.
American Lung Association Chief Medical Officer Dr. Albert Rizzo wrote in an emailed statement: “The wearing of the masks by all individuals can give some degree of barrier protection from respiratory droplets that are coughed or sneezed around them. Early reports show that the virus can live in droplets in the air for up to one to three hours after an infected individual has left an area. Covering your face will help prevent these droplets from getting into the air and infecting others.”
Due to extensive shortages of PPE (personal protective equipment), surgical masks and N-95 respirators have been in short supply. The CDC specifies that medical-grade masks should be left for medical workers and first responders. Instead, they urge the public to use cloth masks that can be washed and reused. These masks should be worn, “whenever people are in a community setting, especially in situations where you may be near people.”
The efficacy of masks, especially homemade ones, is still being hotly debated in the scientific and medical communities, as there’s precious little data available on the subject. According to nationalgeopraphic.com, The World Health Organization (WHO) said there is currently no evidence that wearing any kind of mask can prevent healthy people from being infected by COVID-19. So, it’s important to remember that these masks are primarily are to protect other people from you, not the other way around.
Fortunately, it’s a fairly easy protective measure to take. There are tons of tips and tutorials out there to help you fashion a mask out of ordinary household materials you’ve probably got lying around. Check out the CDC’s video tutorial, which features Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, creating a simple face covering in seconds using an old T-shirt and some rubber bands: