Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on Wednesday that certain age groups could be required to wear a mask in public if younger Americans won't heed warnings to stop the spread of the global coronavirus pandemic.
"If the concern is that asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic younger Americans (millennials) are continuing to spread #Coronavirus because they don't heed warnings, you could require anyone between certain ages to wear a procedure mask when they go out," he said in the first of a series of tweets.
THREAD: If the concern is that asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic younger Americans (millennials) are continuing to spread #Coronavirus because they don't heed warnings, you could require anyone between certain ages to wear a procedure mask when they go out. 1/n— Scott Gottlieb, MD (@ScottGottliebMD) March 18, 2020
“If we're at the point of locking down entire cities, we must consider other ways to break off transmission that don't take away peoples' liberty,” he added, noting that current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance calls for sick people to wear masks.
"But we know this is spread by Asymptomatic people,” he added.
Since last week, dozens of state and local governments have closed down schools, restaurants and taverns in the U.S. to promote self-isolation, which could slow down the spread of the coronavirus. Public health officials have noted that COVID-19 is particularly deadly to the elderly, those with respiratory illnesses or other conditions that might compromise their immunity.
“People should still be required to stay home if sick, but that's hard to enforce. Requiring a procedure mask for those who go out in areas of sustained spread (like some big cities) would be a second layer of protection when people are asymptomatic or defiant,” Gottlieb said.
He added that people who have hoarded medical supplies such as face masks should donate the items to local hospitals, where shortages have been reported.
“Remember, prior guidance in the U.S. discouraged a mask but it was a time when there were probably hundreds and maybe low thousands of cases (and officials maintained there was no community spread),” he tweeted. “Now there are clear hot spots and sustained transmission so risk has grown a lot.”
As of Wednesday morning, more than 6,500 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., though several lawmakers have raised concerns that the count might be much higher due to lack of testing capacity. So far, 115 people have died due to the disease.