NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Advises New Yorkers to Wear Masks
During his daily COVID-19 Emergency Response Press Conference, NYC Mayor, Bill de Blasio today announced new guidance advising New Yorkers to wear face coverings of some sort when going outdoors. He clarified how it would not be a replacement for current social distancing rules but, at the very least, a method of not transmitting the virus to someone else should one be infected without knowing. Also on hand to discuss this newest approach towards slowing the spread of the virus was Dr. Oxiris Barbot (Commissioner Oxiris Barbot, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene). She explained the proper approach in avoiding a viral infection and making the best of covering one’s face.
The Mayor’s recommendation was modeled off the new study from the CDC published on April 1, titled, ‘Presymptomatic Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 — Singapore, January 23–March 16, 2020’. Basically it means a person who hasn’t yet exhibited symptoms was still capable of transmitting the virus. Governor Cuomo has already been speaking of such a concept for days, if not weeks, and so it’s interesting that such a study would come off as news, but we’ll get to that notion in another piece.
One might also consider visiting the related posting on the Face Covering Guidelines issued by the Department of Health.
Outline on the Recommendation for Face Covering presented by the Mayor today:
New NYC DOHMH Guidance
- Cover mouth and nose in public to reduce risk of transmission.
- Does not replace social distancing. Continue to maintain 6 feet.
- Use a scarf, bandana or piece of clothing.
- Preserve surgical and N95 masks for health care workers and first responders.
Curiously, President Trump had made a reference to scarves a day or so earlier, only to be shot down by the idea. Will get to that as well in our other write-up.
Mayor de Blasio’s Announcement:
“…we’re adding a new important point we’re advising New Yorkers to wear a face covering when you go outside and will be near other people. So, let’s be clear, this is a face covering, and again, we’ll talk about the details in a moment, but it could be a scarf it could be something you create yourself at home, it could be a bandana, it does not, not need to be a professional surgical mask. In fact, we don’t want you to use the kinds of masks that our first responders need that our health care workers need. Don’t use those can’t be clearer, leave those alone, leave those to the people who need them the most who are saving lives. But you can create a face covering with anything you have at home right now any piece of cloth— and that will give the protection to others. And I want to emphasize this I think there’s been, you know, a certain amount of misunderstanding and we’re all dealing with so much information and so many things that are kind of tough to understand and confusing. The reason for this guidance is because the studies are showing that some asymptomatic people, some pre-symptomatic people appear to actually be transmitting this disease. We don’t have perfect evidence it doesn’t conform with what the initial showed us weeks ago, but it does seem to be more and more evident. What that means is when you put on that face covering you’re protecting everyone else. You’re making sure that, you know, you don’t inadvertently, if you happen to have this disease and you may not even know it, you don’t end up giving it to someone else. Now, remember, with community spread with the projections, we’ve told you over half New Yorkers will contract this disease for everything we know. It means that a lot of people are out there right this minute don’t even know they have it, we want to make sure that anyone who doesn’t have to get it doesn’t get it. So, face covering is just a simple way to protect other people and to reduce the speed of that community spread, and hopefully keep a number of people from being affected who don’t have to be affected. Again, you can create your own version you can be creative and put whatever decoration you want on it. It can be as homemade as you want, but that’s what we want you to do something homemade, not something professional, not something from the supplies we need for our heroes and that’s going to help protect everyone.”
The items here going forward are culled from answers given by the Mayor and Dr. Barbot to questions posed by the press.
The Mayor made clear the difference between actual masks used and needed by professionals and those to be created by others:
“…so I want to actually not use the word masks because I want, when you think of masks, you’re talking about what our healthcare workers and our first responders need and those precious supplies that we keep bringing in – those PPEs. That’s for them; that’s for all the people at the frontline that need it. If you’ve got something around the house already, Dr. Barbot will talk about how to deal with that, but I’m talking about face coverings to distinguish, things you can create yourself – like I said, scarfs, bandanas.”
“So again, these face coverings are intended to do two things. One, is for individuals who may be at the very, very beginning of an illness and don’t yet know it and so they’re pre-symptomatic; to ensure that they don’t transmit infection to other people when they have to go out for essential activities. The other thing that these face coverings do is again – if someone has to go outside – I want them to be a reminder for anyone that they may come in contact with to keep the distance of six feet. These face covering shouldn’t be seen as an invitation to come closer. They should actually be an indication to keep six feet distance. And so, in terms of the materials for these face coverings and the upkeep, et cetera, if someone has a paper face covering that can cover the mouth and the nose, then certainly what I would recommend is that they use it when they go outside and that they can continue to reuse it as long as it doesn’t get wet and as long as it maintains its integrity. I would remind individuals they shouldn’t share these paper face coverings and that when they are done using them, they should store them in a place where no one else can touch them.”
“What I would actually recommend is that individuals use cloth [inaudible] face coverings and that they can use old bandanas or new bandanas, they can use a scarf and again, the important thing is that it covers the nose and the mouth. What I recommend is that for these face coverings to be used for a day, and then you can hand-wash them in soap and water, just regular soap and water, nothing fancy and that the important thing is that they dry completely. And so, you know, we would recommend that you have more than one face covering so that you can alternate them. The important thing to note is that there are a number of different potential designs if you will, that individuals can use in terms of these face coverings, but again, you know, remind – thinking back to when we were kids and, and playing games and/or Halloween and covering our faces with a cloth, it really is as simple as that. And again, one of the reasons that we want to make it as basic as possible is to remind folks that these face coverings are not a substitution for all of the layers of prevention that we’ve been talking about since the beginning of this outbreak, which are hand washing with soap and water, hand cleaning with alcohol based hand sanitizer, covering your mouth and your nose when you cough with your elbow, and the most important and evidence based intervention is the social distancing. And so, these face coverings are just one more layer to those layers of prevention. None of them will work a hundred percent in isolation, but all of them together, I think provide the greatest opportunity for us to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
When asked if face coverings would be recommended for children as well, Dr. Barbot answered:
“So, on the question about whether face coverings should be used for children, I would say yes, and I want to go a little bit further than that. I think that in engaging children in making these face covers, I think it’s an opportunity to teach them about COVID-19 and, beyond that, to really instill in them the role that these face masks play as part of our civic responsibility in ensuring not only our own health and the health of our family, but really the health of our communities and that when we are sick, or potentially symptomatic, it’s our responsibility to take definitive measures in order to protect those around us. So, I would really encourage parents to take this as a teaching opportunity for all of the city’s children. “
Asked if any sort of enforcement might be considered at some point, the Mayor responded:
“No, I am not anticipating enforcement at this point. This is an advisory…This, right now, is an advisory and I would say to you I think it will remain an advisory for the foreseeable future because we have much more important things to achieve with enforcement. Enforcement, right now, has to be focused on, you know, shelter in place and social distancing, ensuring that people only go out when they have to go out only for the time they need to and that there’s not gatherings, there’s not violation of social distancing. So, that’s where I want to see the enforcement go. This is about giving people some helpful advice based on new evidence we think will help protect other people.”