CDC considers new guidance on whether public should wear masks

Coronavirus

DENVER — The president’s coronavirus task force is asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to review recommendations on whether members of the public should be wearing masks. Originally, health officials said masks did not effectively prevent people from catching the virus.

The surgeon general now says, as experts learn more about the mysterious virus, advice can change.

For years, mask wearing has been part of Asian culture. European countries are now following that lead. Will America be next?

“There is a fair amount of asymptotic spread,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said during an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “We’ve asked the CDC to take another look at whether or not having more people wear masks will prevent transmission of the disease to other people.”

Adams said even if you wear a mask, you should still practice social distancing. The possible change in CDC guidance has health care workers concerned. There are simply not enough masks to go around.

“If we had … billions of masks and there was enough for everyone to have several, then that would be a viable option,” said Dr. Eric Hill of The Medical Center of Aurora. “I think the problem you have right now is, there’s EMS agencies, paramedics, EMTs, hospitals … that are still basically being told, ‘Hey, you get either one mask a shift or you’re recycling a mask.’”

Hill is on the front lines of this war inside the medical center’s emergency room.

“If you try to go on right now and order masks — as an EMS agency or a hospital — your availability to get them from vendors is basically nil,” he said.

Homemade masks, although better than nothing, are not ideal.

“I’d rather have something that’s kind of gone through NIOSH approval and is rated and vetted for what I’m using it for,” Hill said.

The surgeon general agrees. He said members of the public should leave hospital-grade protective gear for health care workers.

“You still don’t need an N95 mask,” Adams said. “And if you take one of those N95 masks, you may be taking out of the hands of a health care worker who desperately needs it to care for patients.”

Colorado’s health department says it will review any guidance from the CDC on face masks and make recommendations that are appropriate to protect people in Colorado.

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