Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday recommended wear a face mask when going out, especially to places like grocery stores and pharmacies.
That’s because “most” people with viruses have no symptoms or can transmit the disease through close contact before they show signs of disease, the CDC said. Do not recommend people try to buy N95 or surgical masks, and federal agents, including online instructions make masks from ingredients at home.
This recommendation is optional. President Donald Trump, for example, said he did not imagine wearing one. But in recent days, the number of people using some type of face shield seems to have jumped.
So what caused it?
Many experts agree that wearing a mask might not prevent people from getting the corona virus, but it might help prevent those suffering from this disease – especially those who have no symptoms – from spreading it.
The CDC announcement – which came after days of deliberation among White House officials, coronavirus task forces and other public health figures about the need for such guidelines – brought with it the warning.
First, masks can give people the wrong sense of security.
“We don’t want people to feel like,” Oh, I wear a mask. I am protected and I protect others, “said Dr. Deborah Birx, during the White House briefing last week before the CDC issued its recommendations. Birx, a member of the president’s coronavirus task force, explained that wearing a mask would not replace the need to wash hands frequently and continue to maintain social distance.
Another concern is that the recommendation could further depress the supply of medical-level masks for healthcare workers, if consumers flood the market to get one. Earlier statements from US officials downplayed the use of face masks in public, in part for this reason.
But the messages are contrary to what has been recommended or requested by other countries – especially in Asia. Face masks have been everywhere in countries such as China, South Korea and Japan during the outbreak.
Prior to the CDC’s recommendation, residents in several hit American cities, such as Los Angeles and New York, were encouraged to wear masks in public. Riverside District in Southern California mandated it.
Another problem: home-made masks – and some that are store-bought – don’t fit like medical masks.
“Viruses can sneak on shores,” said Melissa Perry, a professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
There are also problems with the ingredients.
“What I see is people buy masks on the web that are fashionable, but the material is thin,” said John Lednicky, an aerovirologist at the University of Florida, who studies how viruses spread in the air. “If the weaving is not tight enough, the virus will penetrate them.”
Even so, he said, a homemade mask is “better than nothing” if it can block some of the particles released by an infected person. But he warned that the mask only protects the nose and mouth area. Another route of transmission is through the eyes. So, once again, don’t touch your face or rub your eyes if possible.
Could glasses add protection from particles?
“There is some protection from glasses, but there is a lot of space around the glasses, so that air flow can still hit your eyes,” he said.
And one more warning: “When wearing and removing it, you must be careful. You might end up getting the virus all over your hands, “said Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer with the Association of State and Regional Health Officers. “Discard carefully.”
If it is made of cloth, wash it. If it’s paper or other material, put it in a sealed plastic bag and throw it away. Wash your hands afterwards.
Transmission Out of Thin Air?
Researchers are debating whether just talking or breathing can send tiny virus particles in the air – and whether the pieces will be large enough to allow transmission to other people.
This critical question has no clear answer.
There is no doubt that coughing or sneezing can spit droplets of several feet, but they are relatively large and heavy and quickly fall to the ground, the researchers said. However, that is the main route of transmission because droplets can land on close contact – defined by the World Health Organization within 1 meter – or fall on the surface, which is then touched by others, possibly picking up the virus.
Only 6 feet from other people and frequent hand washing helps reduce the risk of dripping.
But what about smaller particles – aerosols that are created only by exhaling that can stay in the air longer?
Evidence is not clear.
The special panel last week released a report reviewing studies from the US and China, raising the possibility of airborne transmission. Study findings show that normal breathing can release aerosol viruses, according to letter from a special pandemic committee at the National Academy of Sciences to the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
But committee added, “one must be careful,” because what is found by research may not represent “a decent virus in sufficient quantities to produce an infection.”
That WHO, in the March 20 report, took a more cautious approach, saying there was not enough information to say such small particles aired outside medical settings.
Aerosols that contain viruses can occur during several medical procedures, such as ventilation, in patients WHO said, which puts health workers at risk. Further research is needed, the report concludes, to see whether the virus appears in air samples in a patient’s room where no such procedure occurs and “whether a virus is worth finding and what role it might play in transmission.”
Given the uncertainty, the point, Lednicky and others say, is to avoid close contact and take other reasonable protective measures.
A good mask to ensure that you don’t transmit the virus to others. But don’t forget about the 6 foot personal space zone.
How does this translate into everyday life?
Experts agree that in the midst of this pandemic – while people are encouraged to stay at home and isolate – it is still important for physical and mental health to exercise by walking or running. But what happens when you run into someone else, who might not be wearing a mask?
“The further the distance the better, whatever happens,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, who said that there was only a small chance that you ran through fog that might contain a virus.
“If you want to hold your breath [while passing near others], fine, but that might not be necessary, “he said.
And then there is the friendly neighbor’s dog. Researchers don’t believe pets can transmit the disease. However, to protect pets, they suggest that those who are sick avoid care or share food with the animals, said Benjamin. Because keeping the right distance from your neighbors is also key, it might be a good idea to skip petting dogs.
“I’ll just say ‘Hi’ now,” Benjamin said.
Overall, most health officials seem to think of masks as a good idea. But they agree on three constants in this rapidly changing problem: Keep your distance from others outside your household. Wash your hands – often. And don’t touch your face.
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