NEW: New Jersey residents could soon be wearing masks in public
If you go out of your house, should you be wearing some kind of a mask?
The Trump administration is formalizing new guidance to recommend that most Americans should wear some kind of a face covering, including scarfs, when leaving home.
A person familiar with the White House coronavirus task force’s discussion said they will suggest that non-medical masks, T-shirts or bandannas be used to cover the nose and mouth in public. Medical-grade masks would be reserved for those working with sick people.
During his daily update on Thursday afternoon, Gov. Phil Murphy said there continues to be a severe shortage of N95 masks that protect healthcare workers and first responders from the disease. He said other public-sector workers such as bus drivers and supermarket employees also need the N95s more than the general public.
Health Commissioner Juditch Persichilli said wearing some kind of a homemade cloth mask is fine but it’s important to remember that “masks are generally to protect people from you, not necessarily to protect you from what’s around you, so it doesn’t take the place of social distancing, it doesn’t take the place of staying at home.”
Many health experts, however, say using a mask makes sense in any case because there are many people with the coronavirus who are not symptomatic, meaning that they are spreading the virus without knowing because they don't feel sick.
State Epidemiologist Tina Tan stressed that the best way to slow the spread of the virus remain social distancing.
"Let’s not have a false sense of security about what the mask might offer to protect yourself," she said Thursday before the news from the White House.
She also noted you cannot effectively clean a mask with a filter simply by spraying it with Lysol. There are specialized techniques and processes that must be used.
Murphy said that besides limiting the spread of COVID-19 from someone who doesn’t even know they’ve got the virus, there’s another benefit to having people wear some kind of a mask: Getting people to not touch their face.
He was quick to add, however, that “you’ve seen folks with masks who just start behaving like everything is normal again. Social distancing trumps the mask in a big way. Don’t use that (a mask) as an excuse to get closer to people than you should be.”
Earlier this week, Persichilli directed all employees at long-term care facilities to mask themselves. Long-term care facility residents exhibiting respiratory symptoms should also be masked when they’re receiving treatment.
Inside the Meadlowlands field hospital
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com