BY DR. ROBERT REDFIELD Director, CDC
While the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has been slow to warm up to broad mask-wearing recommendations — first advising, but not requiring, healthy members of the general public on April 3 to cover their faces when out and about. But a report published Tuesday in JAMA now says mask wearing should be universal because “there is ample evidence” asymptomatic people may be what’s keeping the pandemic alive.
The data is clearly there that masking works. If we can get everybody to wear a mask right now, I really do think in the next four, six, eight weeks … we can get this epidemic under control.
One model projects universal masking could save 45,000 lives by November. One study of the largest healthcare system in Massachusetts showed how universal masking of healthcare workers and patients reversed the infection’s trajectory among its employees.
The model also pointed to the Missouri hairstylists who were infected with COVID-19 but did not infect any of their 140 clients, presumably because of the salon’s universal masking policy.
“Mask mandates delay the need for re-imposing closures of businesses and have huge economic benefits,” Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Director Dr. Christopher Murray said in a statement. “Moreover, those who refuse masks are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk.”
Not wearing a mask is like opting to undergo surgery by a team without face coverings The JAMA report also highlighted the two key reasons masking works: It protects both the wearer and the people they come in contact with.
Proper social distancing and handwashing are equally important measures, though, when fighting the virus, the JAMA report said.
People are coming around to mask wearing, but there’s still resistance. A separate CDC report, also out Tuesday, showing the rates of mask wearing in public increased from 61.9 percent to 76.4 percent between April and May.
“At this critical juncture when COVID-19 is resurging, broad adoption of cloth face coverings is a civic duty, a small sacrifice reliant on a highly effective low-tech solution that can help turn the tide favorably in national and global efforts against COVID-19,” the JAMA report concludes.