17:24 GMT15 August 2020
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    Officials at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are considering altering COVID-19 prevention guidelines to recommend that all people cover their faces in public amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    However, according to a federal official who provided comments to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity, no changes to the guidelines have been finalized.

    In addition, the official clarified that any change to the guidelines would recommend that the general public use cloth masks to cover their faces rather than surgical and N95 masks, which US hospitals and health care providers are in desperate need of due to waning supply. Current CDC guidelines do not recommend that healthy people use masks or face coverings to protect themselves from the virus.

    Another official told the Washington Post that the revised guideline could help “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the virus.

    When asked if the general public should start wearing nonmedical, fabric masks during a White House briefing Monday, US President Donald Trump responded: “That’s certainly something we could discuss,” adding that “it could be something like that for a limited period of time.”

    Several health experts and other pundits have recommended that people wear masks to lower the COVID-19 transmission rate.

    Thomas Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, recommended that people wear do-it-yourself face coverings, calling it a “prudent step we can all take to reduce transmission,” the Post reported.

    Scott Gottlieb, an internist and former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, noted in a pandemic response paper published Sunday, that “everyone, including people without symptoms, should be encouraged to wear nonmedical fabric face masks while in public.”

    During a Sunday interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Gottlieb added that people could wear cotton masks. “We should be putting out guidelines from the CDC on how you can develop a mask on your own,” he noted.

    However, according to Ilhem Messaoudi, a University of California at Irvine epidemiologist, social distancing and frequent hand washing are still the most effective ways to stop the infection, which is mostly passed through respiratory droplets. The CDC notes that the virus is spread mainly between people who are in close contact with each other - within around 6 feet - or through respiratory droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Such droplets can make their way to the mouths or noses of nearby people.

    “Given the shortage of PPE [personal protective equipment] available to our health care workforce, it is irresponsible for anyone to suggest that we should all don masks, reducing the supply for nurses and physicians who do not have the luxury of treating symptomatic, very sick patients from 6 feet away,” Messaoudi said in an email to the Washington Post.

    Some experts also worry that homemade masks may not be effective at preventing infection. 

    “Homemade masks theoretically could offer some protection if the materials and fit were optimized, but this is uncertain,” Jeffrey Duchin, a top health official in Seattle and King County, Washington, told the Post.

    “It’s also possible that mask-wearing might increase the risk for infection if other recommendations (like hand washing and distancing) are less likely to be followed or if the mask is contaminated and touched. Well-designed homemade or commercially manufactured masks for the public that did not draw on the supply needed by health care workers could potentially provide some protection,” he continued.

    The latest data by Worldometer reveals that there more than 837,000 coronavirus cases globally, and more than 41,000 people have died as a result. In the US alone, there are more than 147,000 coronavirus cases. More than 3,400 people in the US have died due to the virus.


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