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What is the recommendation on masks?

Much of the efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus focus on a seemingly simple concept: Wear a mask.

But the issue has turned out to be a thorny one. Health authorities in the United States have changed their recommendations on who should carry them and when they are needed. This has produced some confusion and even suspicion.

Since the coronavirus appeared, authorities have been learning about how it is spread and how masks can help stop the expansion.

Here’s a look at how what we know about masks has changed, and how increasingly, authorities are leaning toward enforcing their use.

WHAT DO THE EXPERTS SAY?

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has long recommended people wear a face mask because it helps prevent infected people – whether they know they are infected or not – from spreading the virus.

But last week, the CDC added a new reason: Masks also protect people who are not infected, although to a lesser extent.

The agency referred to a study led by Japanese researchers, which concluded that masks block around 60% of the contagious particles that an infected person expels. When a person not infected with a mask is near another infected person who does not wear a mask, the amount of virus inhaled by the uninfected person is reduced by up to 50%.

But the best results occurred when both people wore a mask. The reduction of virus particles that reached the second person was around 70%.

So if everyone wears a mask when social distancing is not possible, the infection rate will drop, experts say.

It is not a perfect solution. Hand washing, keeping your distance, and being in well-ventilated spaces is important.

HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WAS SAID BEFORE?

US Director of Public Health Jerome Adams tweeted on February 29: “Seriously folks, STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing the general population from catching coronavirus. “

But now, Adams has a different message posted at the top of his Twitter account.

“When we cannot keep six feet (two meters) from other people, please, I beg of you, keep your face covered,” Adams said in a video tweeted on July 2.

And in July, the CDC insisted that covering your face with cloth is a crucial tool in the fight against COVID-19, especially when everyone is doing it.

Similarly, the World Health Organization initially advised against the use of masks for the general population, stating that it could lead to a false sense of security and that people who did not know how to use them correctly could become infected.

The WHO changed its recommendation in June, and now says people should wear them when they can’t maintain social distancing.

WHAT ARE THE FEDERAL REQUIREMENTS ON MASKS?

In the United States there are none. The CDC has only made recommendations.

And the attitude of the White House has been informal at best. Before the election, US President Donald Trump often mocked his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, for wearing one at all his public functions. The president also held rallies that brought together thousands of supporters, most without masks.

Biden, now president-elect, has reiterated that there should be a federal rule on face masks. He has also promised to ask all governors to enforce mask regulations. In case some refuse, he has vowed to surround them to ask for similar rules at the county or municipality level until the entire country is covered.

Other countries have already imposed the use of masks, either in all public spaces or in public transport and shops.

HOW IS THE UNITED STATES MANAGING THE SITUATION?

There are different positions. As of Tuesday, 36 states had some mask rule.

Republican governors in Iowa, North Dakota and Utah, all hard hit by the pandemic, have recently changed positions and imposed at least limited use of face masks. Others have expanded or extended previous orders.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds questioned mask science Tuesday when she introduced a partial obligation, noting that neighboring states with mask regulations had seen an increase in cases, though not as much as Iowa.

“If you search, you can find whatever you want to back up whatever,” he said.

California released a stricter rule Tuesday. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said residents should cover their faces in open spaces, with limited exceptions.