Mayor Bill de Blasio advised New Yorkers on Thursday to get creative and make masks in order to cover their faces while out in public as a means of stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The announcement came hours after the White House reversed previous recommendations and urged Americans to begin wearing cloth face masks or face coverings. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention had reissued guidance on face mask use in a White House memo, according to the Washington Post.
When the novel coronavirus first spread to the United States, some experts, including U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, questioned the utility of all people wearing face coverings. The CDC still states on it’s website that only older and sick adults needed to wear face masks while outside.
The reason for the reversal on the mask stance, the mayor said, is because studies are showing that some people infected with the virus but who show no symptoms are transmitting COVID-19.
“We don’t have perfect evidence,” said de Blasio during his daily coronavirus briefing on April 2 at City Hall. “It doesn’t conform with what the initial information showed us weeks ago, but it does seem to be more and more evident.”
A simple, cloth mouth-and-nose covering would ensure that a potentially infected person does not accidentally pass the virus to a fellow New Yorker by coughing, sneezing or spitting, the mayor added, slowing the spread of the illness.
Children should also wear face coverings, said NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot.
The mayor projected that over half of New Yorkers are likely to get the disease.
“There are a lot of people out there right this minute that don’t even know they have it,” said de Blasio.
Given the need for medical grade face masks in city hospitals, the mayor urged New Yorkers not to use any mask that could be given to a healthcare worker such as an N-95 or surgical mask. Instead, New Yorkers can use “anything in their homes” such as a cloth, scarfs or even a bandana to shield their faces.
“The less fancy, the better,” said Barbot. Paper face masks are acceptable to use, and reuse, as long as they do not get wet, according to Dr. Barbot.
New Yorkers should not share any paper mask that they use and when a person is done using the mask they should be safely tucked away somewhere nobody else could mistake it for their own. A cloth mask is better though, given that people can further prevent the spread of the virus by hand washing them.
There is one exception to the technically “advisory” rule, the city has yet to decide on fines on those who walk around mask-less. A person does not have to wear a face mask while exercising as long as they are staying six feet away from another person, Dr. Barbot clarified.