Why was the American public told not to wear face masks?

Even if face masks don’t protect 100%, they are surely better than nothing. Countries like Japan where the public is encouraged to wear face masks has had a much smaller occurrence of COVID-19 transmission. Was it just a “white lie” to ease demand so that hospitals wouldn’t face a shortage? That may be so, but it seems they made the crisis much worse in the U.S., and was a terrible betrayal to public health.

I think it was during the time of personal protection shortage for those who needed it most - Hospital workers. A time they did not need a public run on masks which would leave Hospital workers without them. Get your hospital workers sick and you have just exacerbated an already very dangerous situation.

It would be helpful if you established that;
the American public told by who?
and that that ‘who’ actually told the American public
not to wear face masks.

CMC fnord!

Yeah, pretty much save them for those that really need them. If we had an infinite supply, then I have no problem with average people wearing. But until we have assurance that all the medical personnel have plenty, I think it’s wasteful for us to wear.

The WHO guidelines. Note this is not an American thing but a worldwide thing.

Also, you might want to re-check Japan in about a week’s time. It’s starting to look grim over there as well.

Rather than masks (which can provide a false sense of security), it seems places like South Korea, Hong Kong, and China are getting better success from extensive testing, contact tracing, social distancing, and shutting things down earlier. If those get relaxed too soon, you’ll see a resurgence, masks or not, which may be the case in Hong Kong right now.

The advice to Americans (from the CDC) is no different than what the World Health Organization is currently saying:

There’s a lot of speculation now that this is bad advice, and that Asian countries who have encouraged mask use had it right all along. I’m not sure that there’s science behind that speculation yet. Of course, things are changing on a near daily basis.

U.S. Surgeon General, HHS and CDC

The US was told not to wear masks for the same reason China is lying about it’s infected/death numbers, for the same reason states have been told not to release their infected/death numbers to media outlets, for the same reason Trump ignorantly said this would ‘all blow over soon’ in so many ways. The reason: to project a false sense of control of the situation. Anything less would make the leaders look (even more) incompetent and (rightly) undermine their authority.

As I understand it, the virus particles are so small that if they’re in the air you’re breathing and you’re wearing a mask that’s sub-respirator level then - essentially - if you’re getting air into your lungs then you’re getting all the Coronavirus into your lungs as well. The air either goes through the mask and all the Corona goes through it as well or the air goes around the edges of the mask, and the Corona goes right along with it.

Hospital workers wear the flimsy paper/cloth masks to slow down the speed of the air they are exhaling, so that it doesn’t go as far, as fast. It also catches larger particles of spittle and such before they have broken into smaller ones that could float around in the air for a while.

For a person who has the disease, it is useful to wear the mask to prevent spreading it. For a person who does not have the disease, you may as well wear a fishing net over your head. Hospital workers should, in essence, be treated as always being sick since they’re always in contact with sick people.

Of course, you might have the disease and not know it so wearing a mask will help to keep you from spreading the disease. But that should come after knowing that hospitals and sick people can all get one, whether you buy or not.

I still don’t get it: medical workers should have been equipped with medical-grade masks, and i don’t see the reason why they didn’t have stockpiles in hospitals and why the CDC/HHS didn’t have an emergency supply on hand.

It’s absolutely beyond pathetic that we have national health officials representing the highest levels of our national government urging people NOT to get masks. This is mind-bogglingly dumber than pigshit, and we should be ashamed of ourselves for having what we call a first-rate health system and not having even basic supplies at hand.

That could be true, but I suspect that they were told not to wear masks because we were just not prepared for a pandemic. I think that this is also a moment to reconsider how we think of public health. All of the emphasis of public health in the US is on the individual and the decisions that individuals make; it should be more focused on the masses collectively. In fact, it might be better if public health officials did exert more control over individuals.

Vaccines? Fuck “choice”- you have none from now on. Either you do it, or you go to jail.

Having a party in public and violating a stay at home order? In the clink you go, son.

People need to be controlled. We need to be told how to behave.

There’s some further discussion of the efficacy of masks in this thread: Where are all these people getting masks?

As for the thread title’s question: What I remember hearing (whether or not it was accurate) was that masks (at least, non-medical-grade masks) were worse than useless because they didn’t stop virus particles from getting through (as Sage Rat explained) but they made it more likely that people would touch their faces.

Except that, putting a whole bunch of people together in jail might be a good way to spread the virus.

I am surprised by this “all or nothing” attitude that pops up, even here.

So, a simple mask isn’t 100% effective. We know that. No false sense of security. But I don’t have an n95 respirator. And, guess what, those aren’t 100% either. It’s all a range.

Something is better than nothing.

I don’t understand this hypothesis. Why would you be more likely to touch your face if it’s covered?

Presumably, because masks are unfamiliar and/or itchy.

I am surprised by this “all or nothing” attitude that pops up, even here.

So, a simple mask isn’t 100% effective. We know that. No false sense of security. But I don’t have an n95 respirator. And, guess what, those aren’t 100% either. It’s all a range.

Something is better than nothing.

But at some point the effectiveness might be so close to zero that it’s not worth bothering. Like a dust mask is useful for keeping large quantities of sawdust out of your nose, and a wet rag might help keep some smoke out of your lungs in a fire, so in those situations every little bit helps. But if only a little bit of an airborne virus can make you sick, then a dust mask or a wet rag are going to have an effectiveness of nearly zero. That’s why medical staff still needs N95 masks.

BUT – the attitude that might be changing is one akin to herd immunity and breaking the infection chains. A simple cloth mask might not do anything to prevent you from inhaling an airborne virus, but it might prevent you from spitting on food in the grocery store. And if we all assume we’re already infected, and we ALL wear masks, that’s going to cut down on the amount of infected spittle on the produce. Maybe.

It seems to me, a layman, that the difference in recommendations might be how they’re looking at the effectiveness. As an individual trying to avoid getting infected, the CDC tells me that a mask won’t help. But as a member of society participating in a combined effort of social distancing and extreme hygiene, maybe it will help flatten the curve.

In any case, I’m going out to the pharmacy today to pick up some prescriptions and I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I don’t have any masks in the house but I could rig something up if I thought it would help.

If most people wore masks, transmissions would go way down.

As I understand it, no. Hospital workers change masks frequently-- which is why they need so many. People wearing them around town are wearing the same one all day, and it gets damp from the moisture in their breath, which can actually make it a breeding ground for all kinds of germs, particularly bacteria that cause pneumonia. Masks loaded with bacteria can be what cause someone with asymptomatic Covid-19 to develop pneumonia.

This is the really salient point. Masks do not stop the virus from coming in. They stop it going out.

Hospital workers are wearing the masks not so much to protect themselves from catching Covid-19, but to protect patients already infected from Covid-19 from catching an additional infection when they are vulnerable. Everyone harbors all kinds of stuff that does not make them very ill, but can devastate someone else. This is why surgeons wear masks while operating, but the patient does not.

Not to mention, you can become infected through ANY mucous membrane. My cousin the PCP told me to wash my hands not only after using the toilet, but BEFORE as well. And also, right before brushing my teeth. Also, to rinse the whole toothbrush down with warm water. Not just the bristles, the WHOLE brush.