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U.S. Surgeon General explains why health officials now recommend public masking

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - A member of President Trump's Coronavirus Task Force explains why health officials reversed their recommendation for public masking.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams visited Fort Wayne Friday morning to talk about how the community can slow the spread of the virus.

He addressed a point of confusion and contention about the general public wearing masks.

At the onset of the pandemic, health officials said healthy people don't need to wear masks, and they also believed people without symptoms of the virus couldn't spread it to others.

Now, public health officials know more about how the virus is transmitted. Both the CDC and the WHO now recommend the public wear face masks when it isn't possible to socially distance yourself from others.

Why the change in recommendation?

At the time when COVID-19 was firing up, health officials knew little about how the virus spread.

"The virus which causes COVID-19 is called SARS-CoV-2, and SARS-CoV-2 comes from a family of viruses that include MERS, which we also dealt with, and the common cold. Based on everything we knew about that family of viruses in February, we did not think people could spread the disease if they were asymptomatic," the U.S. Surgeon General said.

That means some people who may be positive for COVID-19 might not have a fever, runny nose or cough, which are obvious signs someone is ill.

This is one of the reasons COVID-19 spreads so easily and can be virtually undetectable without a test if you're asymptomatic.

"Unfortunately we found that in up to 50 percent of cases of coronavirus, people can spread it if they are feeling and looking fine. That is why changed our recommendations. That is why we now ask that people wear a face mask out when they are out in public, particularly if they can't maintain social distance," Dr. Adams said.

At the onset of the pandemic, there was also a shortage of N95 masks, and health officials wanted to ensure medical professionals received the personal protection equipment to keep our hospitals and most at-risk patients as safe as possible.

In February, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams asked the public to stop buying masks, but he's now changed his position based on new scientific studies.

The Surgeon General asks Americans to follow the three W's: wash your hands, watch your distance and wear a mask.

"If we do these things, we can safely reopen," the U.S. Surgeon General said. "To the young people out there, if you want prom, if you want spring break, if you want to see the Colts and Pacers play, the fastest way to get there is to follow the three W's."

Learn more about the CDC's mask recommendations here.

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Kayla Crandall

Kayla Crandall is an Emmy award-winning journalist. She serves as the Social Media and Digital Content Manager at WPTA. Follow her on Twitter @KaylerJayne.

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