CLEVELAND — At the beginning of this year, it may have looked funny to wear a mask while shopping at your local grocery store. But as coronavirus cases have skyrocketed, there may be new guidance about the benefits of wearing a mask. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) said most people don’t need to wear masks, but changes to that general guideline could be coming, one that Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton is looking forward to.
Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton has, too, heard the discussion that President Trump and the CDC are revisiting previous guidelines to encourage the public to take additional measures to cover their face during the pandemic by using face masks.
“I’m anxiously awaiting this guidance alongside you. A lot of people have reached out to me, and I think those cloth masks are a great thing to be making and it will help all of us and we can use those when we are out and about running errands,” she said.
Right now, the CDC doesn’t recommend healthy people wear a face mask unless you are caring for someone who is sick. However, the idea of healthy people who may be asymptomatic wearing masks has caught on across Europe.
In some parts of China, it’s required to wear a mask. Those caught not wearing one while out in public may be fined or even arrested. In South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, health officials advise everyone to wear a mask while in the presence of others, especially in crowded places, according to CNN.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recognizes this trend in places like Europe.
"Getting a much more broad community wide use of masks outside of the health care setting is under very active discussion," he told CNN.
Acton said even without wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, covering your mouth with your elbow when you cough and washing your hands, are all proven to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“I’ve been saying all along, assume you have it [novel coronavirus]. Masks can help in not spreading those big respiratory droplets. I don’t know a pleasant way of saying that, spewing things into the air,” Acton said during a Tuesday briefing with Gov. Mike DeWine. "Now the biggest thing is to the stop the spread, so in this country we are weighing a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and knowing the N95 masks have to go to our workers on the frontlines.”
Across the country and in Ohio, hospitals are facing a shortage of PPE, such as masks and gloves.
“The respirator masks—the N95s— have absolutely got to go the healthcare workers or nursing home workers,” Acton said. “We have nursing homes who are dangerously short of even the surgical masks.”
Acton recommends if you have two or three surgical masks at home, keep those for yourself, but immediately donate any extra that you may have to a local health department. Acton said the CDC has always had guidance on wearing scarves, bandannas or any kind of cloth.
In Slovakia, Austria and the Czech Republic, residents are required wear a mask while out in public to health contain the spread of the coronavirus, according to CNN.
“In other countries whenever you have any cold, everyone wears a mask because it is seen as polite and stops the spread of disease. You are sort of looked at funny if you are out coughing without one,” Acton said.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams originally urged the public to not buy or wear masks because it was based on the best available science at the time.
"Initially the CDC and WHO recommended against it given on the best available science at the time. We have learned there is fair amount asymptotic spread. We have asked the CDC to take another look to see if having more people wear the mask will prevent transmission of the disease to other people," Adams said on Good Morning America.
Right now in Ohio, companies like Battelle, local hospitals and local organizations have started making cloth masks to help fill the shortage.
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