The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued long-rumored new guidance about face coverings on Friday night. The guidance recommends that, in addition to maintaining six feet of social distancing, Americans should also wear "cloth face coverings" in public settings where "other social distancing measures are hard to maintain" such as grocery stores and pharmacies.
The guidance specifically states that Americans should not, however, wear "surgical masks or N-95 respirators," because those "are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders[.]" Rather, the CDC recommends "simple cloth face coverings" that are available for purchase or can be "made at home from common materials at low cost."
The new guidance, along with its attendant explanation, highlight the continuing difficulty the epidemiological community has had in developing a consistent public health plan to slow the spread of COVID-19. The World Health Organization, whose response to the COVID-19 crisis and willingness to believe obvious lies peddled by the Chinese government have both been widely criticized, continues to maintain that the majority of the population should NOT wear masks.
Meanwhile, in the course of explaining why they are issuing new guidelines recommending these cloth face coverings, the CDC's statement says that the guidance is necessary in light of "new evidence" that people who are asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic can spread the disease' however, this is not new evidence. It was widely understood even in early February that asymptomatic transmission was possible. Certain studies and outbreaks in mid-March furthermore underlined the threat of asymptomatic transmission. So, the possibility of this kind of transmission has long been understood and known.
However, it is true that the White House was presented with new evidence this week suggesting that the virus can be spread through talking or just breathing and not merely by the spread of airborne particles caused by coughing or sneezing, which may have provided the impetus for the new CDC guidelines.
During his Friday press conference, President Donald Trump stressed that the guidelines were voluntary and that he himself would not be participating.
"Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens — I just don't see it," Trump said.