Should all Americans be wearing face masks?

As administration officials mull a variety of coronavirus mitigation measures, California is promising guidance on whether or not people should be wearing masks.

Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday said that the state is considering guidance around whether people beyond the medical profession should wear some sort of mask or face covering, including in professions like grocery store workers.

The science is incomplete in this area, according to Newsom, and there is a concern that people will think masks are a replacement for social distancing, which they aren't.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams has said that the practice often leads to increased touching of one’s face and can produce a “false sense of security,” adding that the World Health Organization and the CDC have reaffirmed in the last few days is that they do not recommend the general public wear masks.

 

“The virus is not spreading in the general community,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a Jan. 30 briefing. “We don’t routinely recommend the use of face masks by the public to prevent respiratory illness. And we certainly are not recommending that at this time for this new virus.”

As the cases of COVID-19 grows across America and supplies like face masks and gowns are in short supply, health experts say implementing guidance may take masks away from the health care providers who are on the frontlines of the pandemic.

However others believe that masks, even homemade masks, would help reduce the risk of unknowingly spreading the virus through coughs, sneezes, even yawns or simple conversation.

George Gao, director-general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in an interview with Science magazine that "when you speak, there are always droplets coming out of your mouth.”

“The big mistake in the U.S. and Europe, in my opinion, is that people aren’t wearing masks,” Gao said.

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Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Tuesday that the White House coronavirus task force is also seriously considering guidance that Americans wear masks.

“The idea of getting a much more broad, community-wide use of masks outside of the health care setting is under very active discussion at the task force. The CDC group is looking at that very carefully,” Fauci told CNN.