CDC ‘not recommending’ Americans use face masks to prevent coronavirus

Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images
In China, nearly 400,000 face masks are being produced a day as coronavirus spreads.

Despite news of the first person-to-person spread of coronavirus in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is not recommending that people start wearing face masks.

“The virus is not spreading in the general community,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a briefing Thursday. “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.”

Instead of wearing face masks, Messonnier said that the general public should “be vigilant to the symptoms and signs of this novel coronavirus, that is, a fever and cough, and if you have those symptoms, please call your health-care provider.”

Moving forward, the CDC expects to see more cases of person-to-person spread of coronavirus, Messonnier said. “We want our actions to be evidence-based and appropriate to the current circumstance,” which she said did not justify the use of face masks people who have not been directly exposed to the virus.

When person-to-person spread has occurred in the past, “it is thought to have happened via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread, the CDC said on its website.

Face masks are often worn to protect against these germs, and in China their demand has skyrocketed to more than 200 million masks a day. With a typical daily output of 400,000 masks produced on a daily basis, there is a significant mask shortage.

Alibaba-owned BABA, -1.28% retailer Taobao has sold upward of 80 million face masks a day. The company has urged sellers not to hike the price of the masks being sold despite rampant demand.