April 3, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Mayor Bill de Blasio advised all New Yorkers Thursday to wear face coverings when stepping outside their homes.
He said people should wear bandanas, scarves, or other coverings over their mouth and nose while out in public in order to slow the spread of the virus that has infected about 50,000 city residents.
The mayor had previously advised people to wear masks or face coverings only if they were sick. He issued the new guidance because more evidence is evolving that shows that asymptomatic people may be carrying COVID-19 and can spread it to others.
“When you put on that face covering you’re protecting everyone else,” he said at a press briefing yesterday.
De Blasio said everyday New Yorkers should not use surgical or N95 masks as those should be reserved for medical workers on the frontlines. Instead the face coverings should be “homemade.”
“It could be a scarf it could be something you create yourself at home, it could be a bandana, it does not, not need to be a professional surgical mask,” de Blasio said.
“In fact, we don’t want you to use the kinds of masks that our first responders need, that our health care workers need. Don’t use those — can’t be clearer — leave those alone, leave those to the people who need them the most who are saving lives.”
However, Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said that while the face coverings are helpful in stopping the spread they are by no means foolproof.
“These face covering shouldn’t be seen as an invitation to come closer,” she said. “They should actually be an indication to keep six feet distance.”
The new advisory is only guidance. It is not a mandatory order that will be enforced, de Blasio said.
However, Council Member Robert Holden, who represents Ridgewood and surrounding areas, thinks the city should go a step further and make it mandatory.
“I believe that during this emergency, wearing a mask should be a requirement on the streets of New York City, not just an advisory,” he said in a statement.
He submitted legislation to the City Council Wednesday that would require everyone to wear a mask or face covering when in public during a public health emergency.
“Despite earlier reports about the ineffectiveness of masks for the general public, there is growing evidence and data that shows the opposite is true,” Holden said. “A mask may not entirely protect you from getting sick, but it will prevent you from spreading the coronavirus to others, and it is very easy to make your own mask at home.”
He said the approach has been effective in other countries like South Korea, Japan and the Czech Republic.
“It’s time for Mayor de Blasio and Dr. Barbot to stop living behind the curve,” Holden said. “Either we are going to flatten the curve or continue to see this virus spread. They are waffling and treading too carefully on this decision once again, and it’s time they showed real leadership by taking a bold step forward.”
More information about face coverings can be found on the city’s coronavirus guidance website.
Meanwhile, the WHO says that fabric masks can increase risk. Psychological comfort dies not equal physical protection.