CDC Director Robert Redfield has called for "universal masking" in the United States in an attempt to control the spread of coronavirus. Redfield added that if everyone in the United States wore a mask, the pandemic could be brought under control in a matter of months.
In the last few weeks, coronavirus cases in the United States have jumped. While much of Europe and Asia seem to have control of the pandemic, cases in many states have peaked, and more than 138,000 people have died across the country.
In an editorial published Tuesday in the journal JAMA, Redfield called for universal masking because "there is ample evidence" that asymptomatic people are the ones keeping the pandemic thriving.
Someone who is asymptomatic has the coronavirus but will show very minor or no symptoms, often leading them to believe that they don't have the virus.
"The data is clearly there that masking works," Redfield said. "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."
Redfield pointed to several studies showing the usefulness of masks, including one from the largest healthcare system in Massachusetts. Universal masking of workers and patients in this setting helped to reverse the spread of the coronavirus among employees.
He also highlighted the case of a pair of Missouri hairstylists, who were infected with coronavirus, but did not infect any of their 139 clients because of proper use of masks.
The CDC used this particular case in a study released this week, stating that "broader implementation of masking policies could mitigate the spread of infection in the general population."
A new model by the University of Washington projected more than 200,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by November but also found that universal masking could bring that number down by 45,000.
“As we all have come to recognize, wearing masks can substantially reduce transmission of the virus,” Dr. Christopher Murray told Market Watch. “Mask mandates delay the need for re-imposing closures of businesses and have huge economic benefits. Moreover, those who refuse masks are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk.”
A study by the CDC found that mask use outside of the home had increased from 61.9% to 76.4% from April to May.
One of those who has changed their minds on masks is President Donald Trump. After months of refusing to wear a mask in public, Trump wore one during a recent visit to Walter Reed hospital.
When sharing CDC advice that Americans wear cloth face coverings in early April, the president suggested that he wouldn't be seen in a mask.
"I'm choosing not to do it," he said. "It's a recommendation, they recommend it. I just don't want to wear one myself."