If every American decided to wear a mask or face covering, the U.S. could get the coronavirus pandemic under control within two months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield.
“The time is now,” Redfield said during an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Dr. Howard Bauchner. “I think if we could get everybody to wear a mask right now—I think in four, six, eight weeks we could bring this epidemic under control.”
Both the CDC and the World Health Organization have now recommended that people wear masks to limit the spread of the contagion.
The coronavirus has infected about 13.5 million people worldwide and killed at least 585,000, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. In the United States, there have been more than 3.5 million coronavirus cases and at least 137,000 deaths.
“I think we’re being very clear now,” Redfield said. “Now’s the time to wear a mask.”
Medical experts have noted that the virus can spread through respiratory droplets that pass when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Recent studies have suggested that not wearing a face mask dramatically increases a person’s chance of being infected by the coronavirus.
“We conclude that wearing of face masks in public corresponds to the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission, and this inexpensive practice, in conjunction with simultaneous social distancing, quarantine, and contact tracing, represents the most likely fighting opportunity to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, prior to the development of a vaccine,” one recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said.
Other experts have asserted that the coronavirus could spread through aerosolized droplets, particularly in poorly ventilated spaces. According to the WHO, airborne transmission is different from droplet transmission. Airborne transmission refers to the presence of extremely small particles that can remain in the air for long periods of time, and has the potential to be transmitted to others over distances greater than one meter.
The CDC released a new study that said state leaders should strongly consider requiring face masks and coverings to curb the spread of the virus. This particular study focused on two Missouri hair stylists who were infected with the coronavirus but didn’t pass it on to their customers.
“With the potential for pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission, widespread adoption of policies requiring face coverings in public settings should be considered to reduce the impact and magnitude of additional waves of COVID-19,” the study said.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.