Top health officials have changed their minds about face mask guidance
First, health officials said we shouldn't wear face masks. Then, they said we should. Now, many are saying we must wear masks if we want to protect the economy, reopen more schools and save tens of thousands of lives.
"If we all wore face coverings for the next four, six, eight, 12 weeks across the nation, this virus transmission would stop," said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But President Donald Trump said he won't consider a federal face mask mandate, citing outdated statements made several months ago.
"Dr. Fauci said don't wear a mask. Our surgeon general, terrific guy, said don't wear a mask. Everybody was saying don't wear a mask," Trump told Fox News' Chris Wallace in an interview that aired Sunday.
"All of a sudden, everybody's got to wear a mask. And as you know, masks cause problems too. With that being said, I'm a believer in masks. I think masks are good."
It's true that back in February and March, health officials such as Dr. Anthony Fauci and US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams advised the general public not to wear face masks.
But Fauci, Adams, the CDC and the World Health Organization have all done an about-face with mask guidance. In recent months, scientists have learned more about how easily this new coronavirus can spread in public:
-- This virus can be spread by just talking or breathing.
-- This coronavirus is highly contagious. Without mitigation efforts like stay-at-home orders, each person with the coronavirus infects an average of two to three other people. That makes it twice as contagious as the flu.
In March, both the World Health Organization and the CDC said face masks shouldn't be worn by healthy members of the general public andinsteadshould be reserved for those who are sick or caring for the sick.
Adams posted a tweet on February 29 urging people not to buy masks.
In June, WHO also reversed its guidance. The global health agency now says countries should urge the public to wear fabric masks where there's widespread transmission of the virus and where physical distancing is difficult.
"People need to know that wearing masks can reduce transmission of the virus by as much as 50%, and those who refuse are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk," said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
As for the notion that wearing a mask might cause health problems, Fauci said that's not true.
"There has not been any indication that putting a mask on and wearing a mask for a considerable period of time has any deleterious effects on oxygen exchange or anything like that," Fauci said. "Not at all."
Can I stop taking other precautions if I wear a mask?
No. It's still important to keep social distancing whenever possible and wash your hands frequently -- especially because since you could touch a contaminated surface (like the front of your mask) and then touch your face when your mask is off.
"Don't get a false sense of security that that mask is protecting you exclusively from getting infected," said Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force.