A new school year is due to start in about a month and a half and many parents are worried about what that will look like if COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the United States.
But a recent projection by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is giving parents and educators hope.
“I think if we could get everybody to wear a mask right now I think in four, six, eight weeks we could bring this epidemic under control,” the CDC’s Dr. Robert Redfield said during an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Dr. Howard Bauchner this week.
“I think we’re being very clear now,” says Redfield, who adds that mask-wearing “is not a political issue—it’s a public health issue.”
If everyone in the United States started wearing a mask in public spaces as of now, the pandemic could be controlled by the time school resumes in September, which would mean a return to normalcy for families who have been struggling for months now.
The CDC and the World Health Organization recommend masks, and this week President Trump endorsed mask-wearing during an interview with CBS News.
When asked if he wants Americans to wear masks, the President replied: “If it’s necessary, I would urge them to wear a mask and I would say follow the guidelines.”
The guidelines are pretty simple: Wear a cloth mask covering your nose and mouth when you’re in a public place were you can’t socially distance (especially indoors), like a grocery store.
The CDC recognized some of the confusion around mask-wearing in an editorial published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, noting that “when asked to wear face coverings, many people think in terms of personal protection…But face coverings are also widely and routinely used as source control.”
Source control means the masks aren’t about protecting the wearer from other people’s germs, but do prevent the wearer from spreading their own. They’re not 100% effective, but they are helping and the science shows it.
This week, the CDC released a new study examining how two Missouri hair stylists tested positive for COVID-19 but none of their clients did. Both the stylists and the clients wore masks during the hair appointments, and the stylists didn’t pass the virus on to their 139 customers. If they had, the spread would have been great, but the masks stopped the transmission. The stylists work at Great Clips, a company that implemented mask policies to protect workers and clients. The policy worked.
“This really shows the power of face coverings, especially in indoor settings,” Nadia Abuelezam, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Boston College who wasn’t involved in the study, tells The New York Times.
The CDC is hoping states consider requiring masks to prevent the coronavirus from spreading and overwhelming health systems, but we don’t have to wait for requirements to start wearing masks. Even kids can do it and it may help them have a better school year in 2020-2021.