As the new coronavirus COVID-19 spreads in the U.S., people who are well want to stay that way. But since no vaccines are currently available, the strongest weapons Americans have are basic preventive measures like hand-washing and sanitizing surfaces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Remember this, next time you are told to trust the experts at the CDC.
The simplicity of those recommendations is likely unsettling to people anxious to do more to protect themselves, so it’s no surprise that face masks are in short supply—despite the CDC specifically not recommending them for healthy people trying to protect against COVID-19. “It seems kind of intuitively obvious that if you put something — whether it’s a scarf or a mask — in front of your nose and mouth, that will filter out some of these viruses that are floating around out there,” says Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University. The only problem: that’s not effective against respiratory illnesses like the flu and COVID-19. If it were, “the CDC would have recommended it years ago,” he says. “It doesn’t, because it makes science-based recommendations.”
The science, according to the CDC, says that surgical masks won’t stop the wearer from inhaling small airborne particles, which can cause infection.
Maybe the CDC was right that the masks were useless. The evidence for masks is dubious. I am not sure myself. But the official CDC recommendations don't seem to be any better than common-sense judgments from the average person.