The White House coronavirus task force guidance on wearing face coverings has evolved over time amid evidence of asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus, making it recommended that people unable to socially distance wear a mask, according to Surgeon General Jerome Adams.
"We've had to clarify several times, and I understand why the American public has been confused over time," Adams told reporters during the April 22 White House coronavirus task force briefing.
"As [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director] Dr. [Robert] Redfield mentioned, initially we said, based on CDC, World Health Organization, and most other major public health organizations that the public needed to know that these masks are not effective or shown to be effective in preventing you, if you wear a mask, from catching coronavirus. Another important thing to remember is the context of those statements was a run on medical masks, on N95 masks, and our healthcare workers were at risk."
The task force now recommends that anyone unable to socially distance wear a mask, because of the possibility of asymptomatic spread.
"What's changed?" Adams clarified. "What's changed is, we found out that, unlike past viruses that are spread through the respiratory route, a significant proportion of coronavirus cases can be traced back to asymptomatic spread.
"So the task force deliberated this. We've always told you that we will look at the facts and we will give people recommendations based on the best available evidence at the time. And once we saw that asymptomatic spread, we said, 'Well, masks still aren't effective, from our point of view, at preventing you from catching coronavirus in a significant way.' But we've always told people that they should wear masks, if they know they have symptoms, to prevent them from spreading to other people."
The original concern over advising the public to wear a mask is related to uninfected individuals believing the mask to be impenetrable by the coronavirus and potentially being inclined to bring their hands to their face
This had the potentially of needlessly bringing a contagion from the hands directly to the face, nose, eyes, and mouth.
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