The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the United States could get the coronavirus pandemic under control in one to two months if all Americans wear face coverings in public spaces.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield made the statement during an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA, on July 14.
“I think the data is clearly there that masking works,” Redfield told JAMA. “I think that if we can get everybody to wear a mask right now, I really do think that over the next four, six, eight weeks, we can bring this epidemic under control.”
Redfield’s comments coincided with the release of two case studies that show how wearing face coverings can significantly reduce the transmission of the coronavirus.
One of the studies, from JAMA, showed that a Boston hospital system reversed the infection trajectory among its employees and patients by adhering to universal masking policies.
In the second study, the CDC highlighted how wearing a mask prevented the spread of infection from two hairstylists to their customers in Missouri.
“Among 139 clients exposed to two symptomatic hair stylists with confirmed COVID-19 while both the stylists and the clients wore face masks, no symptomatic secondary cases were reported; among 67 clients tested for SARS-CoV-2, all test results were negative,” wrote the CDC. “Adherence to the community’s and company’s face-covering policy likely mitigated spread of SARS-CoV-2.”
Experts say the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to mainly spread from person to person, mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
“These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs,” writes the CDC. “Spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).”
In an editorial published by JAMA, the CDC affirmed that cloth face coverings are a critical tool to help stop this kind of spread.
“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” said Redfield. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”
The U.S. continues to lead the world in the number of COVID-19 cases, with nearly 3.5 million infections reported as of Thursday morning, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.