White House hints at COVID-19 mask use as cases pass 216,000

April 2, 2020

The United States recorded over 216,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases across the country, according to a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The death toll stands at over 5,000, according to the same JHU data tracker.

During a recent White House coronavirus task force briefing, President Trump said healthy Americans may want to consider wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"My feeling is, if people want to do it, there's certainly no harm to it. I would say do it," Trump said. "But use a scarf if you want, you know? Rather than going out and getting a mask or whatever."

Though the World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend the use of masks by healthy people, and many scientists argue the data do not support mask use, the health advisers closest to the president have started to signal they may soon recommend homemade masks for Americans in the coming days.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, echoed the president, saying "We've learned there's a fair amount of asymptomatic spread and so we've asked the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] to take another look at whether or not having more people wear masks will prevent transmission of the disease to other people," Adams said.

CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, told National Public Radio that as many as 25 percent of infected people are asymptomatic.

The federal COVID-19 task force also shared models that showed the pandemic could take between 100,000 to 240,000 American lives in the coming months. Deborah Birx, MD, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said the numbers came from several different models put out by Harvard University, Imperial College and the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations.

In other news, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered Floridians to stay home through April 30, after weeks of rejecting a statewide lockdown, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Florida was the only state with more than 5,000 cases that had not issued such and order. Florida currently has almost 8,000 cases with over 100 deaths.

Other states with significant increases include Nevada, where Governor Steve Sisolak also issued a stay-at-home order through the end of the month, and Michigan, with Detroit still a hot spot of activity. The state reported more than 1,700 new cases and almost 80 more deaths in a 24-hour period. Louisiana also continues to see case numbers rise daily by significant amounts, including an increase of 1,100 cases in 24 hours.

However, New York remains the heaviest-hit state, with almost 85,000 cases and 2,000 deaths. NBC News reported that more than half of all the U.S. cases come from the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Recently, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced the death of a 6-week-old, who tested positive for COVID-19. "Testing confirmed that the newborn was COVID-19 positive. This is absolutely heartbreaking. We believe this is one of the youngest lives lost anywhere due to complications relating to COVID-19," Lamont tweeted.

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