The CDC, having first dismissed masks, now says to wear them
From the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency in America, the CDC has consistently been helpful eventually. Its initial instincts keep proving wrong in the first instance, but, eventually, it gets there. Unfortunately, because Trump is stuck with the CDC's slow and erroneous responses, Trump becomes the target for Democrat attacks about his inability to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
The CDC's biggest missteps revolved around the testing kit fiasco. This started when the CDC sent out faulty kits to labs across the country. It apparently had access to better test kits from the World Health Organization, but I'm not blaming the CDC for refusing those kits. The WHO's response to COVID-19 has been disastrous, even worse than the CDC's, so there's no reason to believe that its test kits were any better.
The CDC next made it impossible for local hospitals to use kits already in their possession, meaning that America was stuck with a small supply of worthless testing kits. Faced with a problem of its own creation, the CDC worsened the situation by limiting the types of people who could be tested, which hampered America's ability to understand how swiftly COVID-19 was spreading. Democrats naturally blamed all this on Trump.
The CDC's other huge mistake (which the Democrats also inevitably blamed on Trump, a hapless bystander on this one) was to insist that Americans should not wear masks in public. The CDC took this stand despite common sense and on-the-ground evidence.
Here's where common sense comes in: COVID-19 spreads by hitchhiking on people's mucous and saliva. When people cough or sneeze, or probably laugh or lisp, they spew the virus, which sticks to most objects and also remains suspended in the air. The only masks that prevent COVID-19 from entering into someone else's mouth and nose are the N95 masks that filter down to three microns. These masks should be reserved for people in hospital settings because there's a lot of viral load floating around there.
However, one can stop a virus's spread not just by protecting people from receiving the virus, but also by protecting people from sending the virus. The CDC and Trump's medical advisers decided that the best way to stop the virus's transmission was to lock everyone inside. That works, if you don't mind destroying the entire economy. (It's possible that some of the great minds in government thought destroying the economy was a good thing, but that's an idea for another post.)
Common sense, though, says you can go a long way toward the same goal — denying the virus transportation — by having people wear masks in public. While the masks won't stop transmission entirely, they will prevent the virus from making its long and deadly journey after leaving an infected person's nose or mouth. Instead, most of the virus will be stuck in the mask, going nowhere fast. This matters, because viral load — the amount of virus a healthy person receives — is a significant factor in viral contagion.
Based on this common sense alone, it was crazy for the CDC to advise against masks. A mere lack of common sense, though, was no excuse, because the CDC had access to fast-growing data about masks' efficacy.
In Asian countries, people ordinarily wear masks when they are ill as a courtesy to others. With COVID-19's arrival, they all started wearing masks. And then this happened:
You don't need to be a statistical genius to recognize that having everyone wear a mask flattens the curve without the need to destroy the economy.
Finally, on Friday, the CDC acknowledged its mistake and announced that, henceforth, everyone should wear a mask in addition to social distancing:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday recommended that Americans should start to wear cloth face coverings in public settings.
The agency urged people to use the cloth face coverings in places where social distancing measures are challenging to maintain, including grocery stores and pharmacies, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
By the way, please remember that you can be highly contagious even if you have no symptoms. That's why everyone needs to wear a mask. Masks are one of those activities that work only if everyone does it.
If you sew, this gal's YouTube video if clear and helpful. Even if you're not up to making batches of masks for hospitals, perhaps you can check in with family members, friends, and neighbors who need masks. In this case, it is a matter of all of us pitching in to make things work.