Debate continues on whether ordinary Americans should wear protective masks during COVID-19 pandemic

On Tuesday, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci confirmed the White House Coronavirus Task Force is seriously considering new guidance that Americans should wear protective masks.

The World Health Organization and U.S. health officials, meanwhile, have stuck with their recommendations that mask-wearing is not necessary.

On its COVID-19 website, officials with WHO say people should wear a mask if they are coughing or sneezing, or if they are taking care of a person with suspected COVID-19 infection.

On the U.S. Government's Coronavirus website, it states the CDC does not recomment people who are well to wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.

"You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it," reads the advice from the Federal government. "A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. The use of facemasks also is crucial for health workers and other people who are taking care of someone infected with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility)."

The U.S. Surgeon General has also said that if people use masks improperly, the positives would be mitigated by the negatives.

In addition, it has been pointed out that there is a short supply of protective masks,

Local experts react

On Tuesday, FOX 10's Steve Nielsen spoke with Jerry Varney. Varney works with Sundland Home Care, which provides health care to people in their homes.

Varney says the shortage on masks is very real. He believes recommending all Americans wear masks would compound the problem.

"It would be difficult. I don’t know if you can do that. We have a shortage just with what we got, so -- I mean, it needs to go to the people that need to have it, first and foremost, over the people that are servicing these people that have these symptoms," said Varney.

Proving the high need for personal protective equipment, Project C.U.R.E. in Tempe started accepting donations of personal protective equipment for Banner Medical Centers and other medical organizations.

Project C.U.R.E has historically collected medical equipment and distributed them to areas of the world like Sub-Saharan Africa or Eastern Europe. Now, nurses and doctors in Arizona are the ones that need help.

"It’s not something just here in Arizona," said Travis Gibson, Operations Manager with Project C.U.R.E. in Phoenix. "It’s across the entire United States, and we’re doing our part to hopefully try and help those that are here at home and give the healthcare providers the front line a little more protection, so even those cases can be cut down. They can feel more confident in what they’re doing and where they’re at."

Gibson says they started collecting for Banner yesteon Monday, and have already received several hundred N95 protective masks. They’ll be open weekdays collecting donations.

Gibson also said it’s about supply and demand, and if every American added to the demand, the supply would get stretched that much thinner.

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Additional resources

LIVE: Interactive Coronavirus case data and map


Coronavirus (COVID-19) - How it spreads, symptoms, prevention, treatment, FAQ (In Spanish/En Español)

Arizona COVID-19 Response - Public resources, FAQ, webinars (In Spanish/En Español)

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Stay home when you are sick.

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

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