Coronavirus Briefing: Masks for All

An informed guide to the global outbreak, with the latest developments and expert advice about prevention and treatment
By Lara TakenagaRemy Tumin and Jonathan Wolfe
  • The virus has now sickened more than a million people worldwide. Four billion people — roughly half of humanity — has been told to stay at home.
  • The C.D.C. recommended all Americans wear cloth masks in public.
  • New York has recorded more than 100,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths. State officials are pleading for more ventilators and health care workers.

C.D.C. says: Cover your face

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised all Americans — even people who appear to be healthy — to cover their face with a mask or a scarf when they leave home to help slow the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.
But President Trump, speaking at an afternoon news conference, stressed that the recommendation was voluntary and said he was “choosing not to do it.”
So far, the increased demand for masks far outstrips the supply. That has left desperate people, and hospitals, navigating a marketplace rife with profiteers and scammers.
U.S. states and hospitals, whose normal suppliers are overwhelmed, have been left to negotiate directly with Chinese suppliers, which make most of the world’s masks. To fill the void, middlemen have rushed in. N95 masks, usually 50 cents apiece, were offered to one hospital for nearly $5 each by a company in Massachusetts, which itself had bought them from a Chinese manufacturer for $4.75.
Hoarding has also affected the supply chain. This week, federal authorities seized a medical stockpile that included more than 320,000 masks from a man in Brooklyn.
To free up supply for American health care workers, Mr. Trump may stop 3M from exporting surgical masks and claim more of the ones it makes abroad for domestic use. 3M argued that such a move would be counterproductive, forcing other countries to follow suit and cut off exports.
Want to make your own mask? We have a step-by-step guide for sewing one with common household materials.

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