Pennsylvania residents are suggested to wear a cloth mask in public to curb the spread of COVID-19, said Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday, becoming the first U.S. governor to make such a recommendation.
Wolf noted that the Trump administration is readying guidelines on wearing face masks and called on Pennsylvanians to make their own and wear them when they are out in public, namely at the grocery store, pharmacy, and other places where people gather.
“Wearing a mask will help us cut down the possibility that we might be infecting an innocent bystander, like that grocery store cashier, the pharmacist, or someone stocking shelves,” Wolf said during a video news conference, via WPVI. “These folks are keeping us alive by getting us the supplies we need. We owe it to them to do everything we can to keep them safe. Right now, that means wearing a mask.”
Amid a shortage of N95 respirators during the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus pandemic, residents should not buy them, he said. Those masks should be reserved for healthcare workers, the governor said.
Wolf added in the news conference that masks are not a substitute for the social distancing measures that were put in place.
“Masks help prevent people from sharing illnesses. But, they don’t do a great job at keeping people from getting sick and they’re not foolproof, so it is critical that our first act is to ask ourselves if we really need to leave our house. If we don’t really, truly need to leave, then we shouldn’t,” he said.
The state’s Department of Health posted guidance (pdf) on “homemade masks” on its website.
“Homemade masks made out of fabric and cloth are not considered” personal protective equipment, according to the website.
But homemade masks such as a scarf or bandana can limit the spread of droplets containing the CCP virus.
“When a homemade mask can’t be acquired a scarf or bandana can be utilized. By implementing community use of these homemade fabric or cloth masks, everyone will have a higher degree of protection from this virus,” the department said.
Wearing such a mask, the department said, might be helpful for shopping at essential businesses, visiting a doctor or hospital, using public transportation, interacting with people at businesses, or when feeling sick.
“Because homemade masks protect everyone else from the droplets created by the wearer, it is important that as many people as possible wear these masks when leaving their homes. This helps prevent those who may be infectious but are only mildly symptomatic or not symptomatic from spreading the virus to others in the community. Everyone should remember the phrase ‘my mask protects you, your mask protects me,'” it said.
So far, more than 8,400 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the state, while more than 100 deaths have been reported, according to online tallies.