CDC urges all Americans to wear masks to combat spread of COVID-19

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is officially urging all Americans to wear face masks to stem the spread of COVID-19. 

Leaders from the agency penned an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published Tuesday affirming studies that found the U.S. could get the pandemic under control if face masks were worn universally. The agency has previously recommended wearing masks when social distancing isn’t possible. 

“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”

The decision came after reviewing two studies: a JAMA study that found adherence to universal mask-wearing policies reduced transmission within a Boston hospital system, and an internal study from the CDC that found wearing a mask prevented the spread of infection from two hair stylists to their customers in Missouri.

“With the potential for presymptomatic and asymptomatic transmission, widespread adoption of policies requiring face coverings in public settings should be considered to reduce the impact and magnitude of additional waves of COVID-19,” the study published by the CDC said.

Face mask policies take place at the state and local level. According to a poll released by the CDC on Tuesday, 76 percent of adults said they had worn a face covering when leaving their house within the past week. Redfield has said that number needs to improve if the U.S. is going to have the pandemic under control.

Some senior administration officials, including President Trump, have been reluctant to promote mask wearing. On Saturday, Trump wore a mask publicly for the first time at Walter Reed hospital in Maryland.

Redfield said Tuesday the president and vice president need to wear masks to set an example for the public.

“Glad to see the president wear a mask this week and the vice president, and clearly in their situation they could easily justify that they don’t need to because of all the testing around them and they know they’re not infected,” Redfield said during an interview with JAMA. “But we need them to set the example, as you said, for other individuals.”

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