MEMPHIS, Tenn. — City of Memphis leaders are now saying medical masks could help reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.
In a statement on the city's website, Mayor Jim Strickland says the city and county's joint COVID-19 Task Force issued guidance on facial covering and whether the public should wear a mask:
Facial Covering or Mask Guidance for General Public
Surgical masks are proven to reduce the transmission of infection. Masks serve two functions. First not transmitting infection to others and, second, not becoming infected with an infection. In general, masks should be used in public by those who are ill and caregivers of persons with a respiratory illness.
During a pandemic with sustained community transmission, masks should also be worn by individuals who are elderly, have multiple medical problems or have a weak immune system. At present there is no clear strong evidence for the general public to wear a mask, however, given widespread transmission of COVID-19, the general public may consider using a mask (when available) or a facial covering.
All individuals should practice hand hygiene and maintain a distance of six feet to reduce the risk of infection. Masks may serve as additional protection when combined with other preventive measures.
This comes after doctors said for the weeks the face masks were only beneficial if a person was sick because they stop the spread of germs.
Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Manoj Jain is echoing what city leaders are now saying.
"Masks have two purposes," Dr. Jain said. "One, you can stop an infection from coming to you. Or, the other purpose, causing someone else to get infected."
Dr. Jain says masks are really beneficial to those who are sick or at high risk -- which includes the elderly and those with weak immune systems.
"We don't have clear evidence yet, but wearing a mask may help," he said.
Dr. Jain says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also recommending other facial coverings if necessary.
"We know masks work and masks can help. However, we don't have evidence if cloth masks or handkerchiefs or a bandana will be useful," he said.
He says doctors are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases daily and there is no telling when the pandemic will reach its peak.
"If we have people using any type of facial covering, a mask, or doing social distancing -- staying six feet away, it will help make a significant difference in reducing the infection rate," Dr. Jain said.
Doctors say that masks may be part of the solution but want to remind people to practice proper personal hygiene.