'STOP BUYING MASKS': US Surgeon General and VP say masks won't help fight coronavirus, as demand for emergency supplies increases
Vice President Mike Pence, now the head of the US coronavirus task force, said on Saturday that the "average American" does not need to "go out and buy" a mask to protect themselves from coronavirus. Pence also said the US is working with 3M and other manufacturers to produce at least 35 million more masks per month.
Photos and reports have shown masks and other supplies flying off the shelves as Americans grapple with the possibility of an outbreak in the US. The US surgeon general told people in a tweet to stop buying masks, calling them "NOT effective."
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Vice President Mike Pence said at a press conference Saturday that there is no need for people in the US to buy and wear masks to protect themselves from the new coronavirus. The announcement came after the US confirmed its first coronavirus death — a person in Washington state. At the press conference, Trump, Pence, and other administration officials spoke about the coronavirus threat. "The president mentioned masks," Pence said. "This morning we talked a great deal about additional medical supplies. Let me be very clear, and I'm sure the physicians who are up here will reflect this as well: The average American does not need to go out and buy a mask." The president announced at a press conference at the White House on Wednesday that the vice president will in charge of the nation's coronavirus strategy. The federal government has faced criticism over its response to the virus as it continues to spread around the globe. The US has access to 43 million medical masks, President Trump said, just one of the resources that he credited with ensuring the country is "prepared for whatever circumstance."
The vice president said the US is contracting with 3M to create 35 million more masks each month. He also said the administration will work with other (as yet unnamed) mask manufacturers and added that the task force is working to develop a course of action that would prioritize masks for the use by "high-risk" healthcare professionals. Pence cited the president's decision at the beginning of February to bar all foreign nationals who'd recently traveled in China as one reason that US citizens do not have to worry about the coronavirus. The CDC also does not recommend that average US citizens wear masks US Surgeon General Jerome Adams echoed the vice president's statement in a tweet on Saturday, urging people to "STOP BUYING MASKS." He said that they were "NOT effective" to the general public and said increased demand puts medical professionals at risk.
Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS! 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! https://t.co/UxZRwxxKL9 — U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) February 29, 2020
For the average person, face masks aren't all that effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 The CDC only recommends masks for select groups of people: Those in a region currently experiencing an outbreak, healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients, and anyone who experiences flu-like symptoms. For everyone else, other tried-and-true methods of avoiding illness, like steering clear of sick individuals, refraining from touching your face, and regularly washing your hands, are more effective than wearing masks. "There's little harm in it," Eric Toner, a scientist at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, previously told Business Insider's Aria Bendix. "But it's not likely to be very effective in preventing it." Meanwhile, masks and other supplies have started to fly off store shelves in the US as people stock up due to fears of an outbreak. More than 64 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in the US so far, and four are believed to be cases of community spread — those patients did not visit an area with an outbreak or have any known contact with someone sick.
both mask sections at Home Depot looking empty. also the water section at target... #coronavirus #COVIDー19 pic.twitter.com/CV4Urjt5hl — danthedecentralist (@decentralistdan) February 26, 2020
"I'm just a few days into this job," the vice president said on Saturday of his new position on the coronavirus task force. "I can tell you, having spent time with these extraordinary professionals the president just alluded to, having spoken directly to more than a dozen governors, including Gov. Jay Inslee this morning in Washington state: I think every American would be proud to know what I've heard about the work of HHS, the work of the CDC, and the work of all agencies." Read more: The US has reported its first coronavirus death: a person in King County, Washington The US just reported its first coronavirus death — a patient in Washington. Here's what we know about the more than 60 US patients. The coronavirus death toll surpassed 2,900, with nearly 86,000 infected. Here's everything we know about the outbreak. Companies around the world are telling their employees to work from home amid the coronavirus outbreakJoin the conversation about this story »
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The CDC is recommending — but not requiring — that people cover their faces if they...The CDC is recommending — but not requiring — that people cover their faces if they have to go out in public as the coronavirus spreads across the US. There isn't much good evidence that masks help prevent infection from spreading in a population, except when you put them on the people who are already sick. There are also risks associated with wearing a homemade mask: You might just be turning your scarf into a virus-catcher. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. If you must go out, cover up, according to new recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to curb spread of the novel coronavirus. The recommendations to wear cloth or fabric face masks announced by President Donald Trump on Friday come as emerging evidence suggests people can transmit the coronavirus to others before they even know they've been infected. "In light of these studies, the CDC is advising the use of nonmedical cloth face covering as an additional voluntary public-health measure," Trump said. "So it's voluntary, you don't have to do it ... I don't think I'm going to be doing it." It's quite different from recommendations during the early days of the pandemic, when public-health experts at the CDC said the agency did not "recommend the use of face masks for the general public" and the US surgeon general urged Americans to stop buying masks. Scientists still don't have solid evidence that masks work well at preventing infectious-disease outbreaks, especially the homemade kind. Masks may do a little bit to help sick people from spreading their infections to others and are useful for caregivers and healthcare workers who are exposed to a lot of coronavirus particles as they care for sick patients. "We have always recommended that symptomatic people wear a mask because if you're coughing, if you have a fever, if you're symptomatic, you could transmit disease to other people," Surgeon General Jerome Adams said at the White House Friday. "We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms ... This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity, for example, coughing, speaking, or sneezing, even if those people were not exhibiting symptoms." Because masks are in such short supply, public-health experts have stressed that surgical masks should still be saved chiefly for healthcare workers (and caretakers) who are more exposed to the virus than the general public. "The CDC is recommending that Americans wear a basic cloth or fabric mask, that can be either purchased online, or simply made at home, probably material that you'd have at home," Trump said. "The CDC is not recommending the use of medical grade or surgical grade masks. We want that to be used for our great medical people that are working so hard and doing some job." The new mask guidelines are not meant to replace any of the other recommendations the federal government has put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus, including social distancing, staying 6 feet apart, and washing your hands. Trump said he was not going to be following the federal guideline, though, because "I'm feeling good." "I dunno, somehow, I don't see it for myself. I just don't," he said. "Maybe I'll change my mind." Experts are concerned that homemade face coverings don't help and could even be harmful Generally, health experts are still skeptical that masks will do a lot to prevent more people from getting sick. It's true that some people may shed the coronavirus before they show symptoms, unwittingly infecting others with COVID-19 by coughing, spitting, sputtering, or just breathing on them. But this is not the main way the virus is transmitted. "We have to look at is what is the main driver of this pandemic," World Health Organization Executive Director of Health Emergencies Mike Ryan told reporters on a call Friday. "We still believe the main driver of this pandemic is symptomatic individuals coughing or sneezing or contaminating surfaces or contaminating other individuals. Breaking that chain means ensuring that infected individuals are diagnosed and isolated, their contacts are traced and tracked and quarantined, and that people are cared for very quickly." What's more, textile experts remain concerned that homemade face coverings, which are crafted from woven fabrics made with yarns with pores between them, may not do nearly as much to protect people as surgical masks, which are usually manufactured from nonwoven filtration fabrics and may even be designed to trap virus particles inside. Clothes and scarves don't do that. "Homemade masks may give more peace of mind than actual physical protection," Emiel DenHartog, the associate director of the Textile Protection and Comfort Center at North Carolina State University, told Business Insider in an email. "In personal protection, it is generally not true that anything is better than nothing." Ben Cowling, a professor of epidemiology and a mask researcher at the University of Hong Kong's School of Public Health, who himself wears a mask when he goes out in public, said that staying home is still a better way to remain virus-free. "Social distancing would definitely be the best," Cowling told Business Insider. "I mean, if everybody stays in their home, then there's no way for the virus to spread."Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Filing for unemployment? Here's how to get started.
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