Story at a glance
- US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the CDC will take another look at whether to advise people to wear masks to prevent transmission of the disease.
- The surgeon general’s office, the CDC and the World Health Organization had previously advised against it.
- Adams added that wearing a mask cannot come at the expense of social distancing measures.
The U.S. surgeon general’s office has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reconsider its initial guidance encouraging the general public not to wear masks as the novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the U.S.
“Initially the CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO) and my office recommended against the general public wearing masks based on the best available science at the time in terms of whether they prevent wearers from catching coronavirus,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said during an interview Wednesday on “Good Morning America.”
“We’ve learned there’s a fair amount of asymptomatic spread, so we’ve asked the CDC to take a look at whether or not having more people wear masks will prevent transmission of the disease to other people,” Adams said.
Adams stressed to the American people, however, that if they do wear masks, “it can’t be at the expense of social distancing.”
The surgeon general said the most important thing people can do is to stay at home. He also advised against people using an N95 mask, adding that “you may be taking it out of the hands of a health care worker who desperately needs it to care for patients.”
In late February, Adams warned Americans to stop buying medical masks, saying they aren't effective in preventing the general public from catching coronavirus and are needed for medical professionals.
"Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!" Adams previously tweeted
Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) February 29, 2020
They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!
The CDC’s current guidance on masks is that sick people should wear masks, but those who are healthy shouldn’t unless they are coming into contact with COVID-19 patients.
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Adams’ comments come a day after Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, said recommendations that Americans wear masks to curb the spread of the virus are being considered.
The idea runs counter to guidance from (WHO), which reiterated Monday that it believes sick people and those caring for sick patients need masks.
“There is no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any potential benefit,” Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, said Monday. “In fact, there’s some evidence to suggest the opposite in the misuse of wearing a mask properly or fitting it properly.”
WHO warned last week the world is facing a shortage of protective equipment for health professionals.
SEE MORE ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC IN THE US