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Anger grows over CDC recommendation of no mask needed and US politicizing of coronavirus

By Xian Jiangnan (People's Daily Online)    21:31, February 29, 2020

As novel coronavirus cases continue to emerge in the US, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is telling Americans that most people who aren’t sick do not need to wear face masks, a piece of advice regarded by many Americans as risking human life, prompting growing doubts on the credibility of the organization and the capability in its handling of the spreading virus.

In contrary to China’s all-out efforts and its attitude to put people’s life security and health first, many are shocked to see that U.S. politicians are playing down the risks and even politicizing the virus.


(Screenshot from CDC’s Twitter page)

On Feb. 28, the CDC released a video on its official Twitter account entitled “COVID-19: Should I wear a mask?”, in which the CDC doesn’t currently recommend the use of face masks among the general public to protect against COVID-19. “Some people who have an increased risk of exposure may need additional precautions, such as healthcare professionals caring for COVID-19 patients and other close contacts,” CDC states.

On the CDC’s official website, the organization does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19”, noting that face masks should only be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19, health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings.

(Screenshot from CDC’s official website)

The CDC’s recommendations were immediately questioned or slammed by the American public on social media, with many claiming that the irresponsible remarks are risking people’s life by not encouraging basic protection, which would increase potential risks of person-to-person transmission.

A Facebook user named Hung Vanness refuted the CDC’s advice by pointing out that COVID-19 has a maximum of 14 days of latency, and during this period patients may be completely asymptomatic, and furthermore that the virus has been confirmed by various health authorities to be contagious during the latent period, which makes it different from the general flu. “How can a person find out if they are carrying the virus and wear a mask before they have symptoms?” The user asked.

Echoing Vanness, another netizen, warned of the risks of asymptotic people spreading the virus. “These people won’t stay home, as you suggested because they don’t even know they are sick! ...Wake up CDC and keep your information up to date!”

Meanwhile, some netizens raised doubts over the credibility of the CDC, pointing out that the organization is no longer worth their trust for its failure to protect people from getting infected. “Everybody I know that works in healthcare is taking some home for their families and stashing some away. I trust the healthcare workers and their instincts over the agency who refused an infected citizen a test,” a netizen named Amber commented.

“Isn’t it what you say with flu shots? Surgical masks can filter out up to 80%, N95 up to 95% or even more of viruses. Flu shots are 50% effective this year, but you still push for it,” a Twitter user argued. “Isn't it contradictory, everyone?” 

Some took China’s measures as an example to prove that face masks are necessary. A Twitter user with the screen name of Conservative said, “Just look at how China behaves. Does it make sense to quarantine millions when they declare only 2 to 3 thousand dead? Something worse is going on...”

However, the recommendation was regarded by many as a deliberate cover-up of the country’s shortage of face masks. “You just don’t want to admit you haven’t got enough N95 masks for everyone,” read one Twitter comment.

At present, N95 respirators show a gap of 270 million in the US. Secretary of Health & Public Services Alex Azar said at a Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday that the US currently has 30 million N95 respirators in its strategic national stockpile, but a total of 300 million are needed for health workers.

Despite the CDC’s advice, American citizens have been scrambling to purchase face masks amid growing fears over the novel coronavirus. The US face mask industry is thriving, with prices of disposable face masks spiking and supplies running short.

Some Amazon sellers have jacked up the face masks prices by four or five times what they cost only a few weeks before, according to Keepa, an Amazon price tracker. 

Prestige Ameritech, the largest surgical mask manufacturer in the U.S., told CBS News this week that it's struggling to keep up with the skyrocketing demand for its products.

Although there is emerging news about the spread of the virus across the US, the Trump administration has been playing down the threat the disease poses. Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, even told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference that the coronavirus was the “hoax of the day” on Friday, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo then refused to deny.

“It’s a gotcha moment. It’s not useful,” Pompeo said when Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu asked him whether he believed the coronavirus is a “hoax” during a hearing on Friday.

Echoing Mulvaney, at a campaign rally on Feb.28 in South Carolina, President Trump described the virus as Democrats’ “new hoax” after the Russian investigation and impeachment and criticized media for over-hyping the danger of the virus.

On the same day, two new and unexplained cases of the coronavirus emerged in Northern California and in Oregon, followed by the first case of unknown origin discovered in Solano County, California, bringing the total confirmed cases in the US to 64, indicating that the virus is spreading in the US.

The World Health Organization on Friday increased its global risk assessment regarding the coronavirus from “high” to “very high” amid rising cases around the world. Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, alerted every country to be vigilant in the handling of the virus.

“This virus may be on its way and you need to be ready. You have a duty to your citizens, you have a duty to the world to be ready,” he said. “Wake up. Get ready.” 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Xian Jiangnan, Bianji)

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