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CDC advises wearing masks as US COVID-19 cases top 270,000

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-04-04 07:54

A man looks at his phone as he walks in Times Square, wearing a mask during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in New York City, the US, April 3, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

NEW YORK -- US President Donald Trump said on Friday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that Americans wear cloth face coverings to protect against COVID-19.

"The CDC is advising the use of non-medical cloth face covering as a voluntary health measure," Trump told a White House briefing. "It is voluntary. They suggested for a period of time."

More than 277,000 COVID-19 cases were tallied in the United States, with a death toll exceeding 7,100, according to data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University.

Stanley Perlman, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa, told Xinhua asymptomatic cases are not counted in COVID-19 confirmed cases in the United States since they are not diagnosed. This also makes mitigation strategies harder.

"At this point, however, we do not know whether these asymptomatic patients transmit virus to a great extent. Widespread testing is the only way to deal with this issue," he said.

The CDC said in a release the recommendations were based on recent studies that significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms, and that even those who eventually develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.

"In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission," said the release.

Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure, said the CDC.

Trump said the CDC is not recommending the use of medical grade or surgical grade masks, noting those supplies such as the N95 respirators need to be saved for medical professionals.

The president, however, said that he would not wear a mask.

He stressed that Americans should still follow the administration's social distancing guidelines, which requires people to maintain at least 6-feet (1.8-meter) apart with each other.

In New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak with over 57,000 cases and 1,500 plus fatalities, more people are seen wearing masks after the mayor advised New Yorkers to wear a face covering when outside and near others.

"It can be a scarf, a bandana or one you make at home. But please: save medical masks for our health care workers and first responders who truly need them," said Bill de Blasio on Thursday.

He said covering one's face is an added precaution to protect others in case one has contracted COVID-19 but doesn't demonstrate symptoms, which echoes the CDC's explanation.

New York state had its deadliest day yet since the coronavirus outbreak, with the death toll rising from 2,373 to 2,935 in 24 hours by Friday morning, said Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press briefing.

Over 102,000 cases were tallied in the state as of Friday evening local time, more than the total cases recorded in Germany. Meanwhile, nearly 3,000 have died of the coronavirus, according Johns Hopkins University's data.

The Empire State is in urgent need of ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE) and health care workers as a surge of COVID-19 patients is expected in the coming days.

Cuomo said that he would issue an executive order that allows the state to take ventilators and PPE from institutions that don't currently need them, and the National Guard will be mobilized to move the equipment to where they are needed the most.

The state is trying to buy medical material and equipment from China. "We are working with Alibaba, which has been very helpful to us," said the governor. "I spoke to Jack Ma and Mike Evans, who is the president. And they have been personally gracious and very, very helpful in trying to get us to source material from China."

The governor made a plea to the federal government, asking for a national effort to redeploy medical personnel and equipment from states that are currently not hit hard by the pandemic to places like New York, where a peak is coming.

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