Lehrer: Locally, you are now recommending that all New Yorkers going outside should wear masks. The City's position used to be that healthy people don't need masks because they're not very effective at preventing the virus from coming in, they're mostly for keep you from spreading it. So, explain this new recommendation.
Mayor: Exactly. It's still the fundamental truth. All of our health leadership had been going over this issue and only in the last really 48 hours or so do they feel they've seen evidence from around the world, particularly a new study coming out of Singapore, that shows more evidence that this disease can be spread by asymptomatic people. But the point is exactly what you said, by saying face coverings – I'm really going to use that word very carefully – face coverings, because we do not want anyone anybody who's not a first responder or a health care worker to go anywhere near surgical masks or N95’s – those are only for the people fighting the frontline battle. What I talked about yesterday, advising the people of the city, use a scarf, use a bandana, use something that you create at home. But it is exactly what you said still, it is not about an average New Yorker using that scarf or bandana to stop themselves from contracting it, it is to make sure that if you happen to be someone who has a disease and you just don't know it yet, it just helps make sure that you won't inadvertently spread it to another person. So, it's a smart move in an age of community spread of this disease when we're trying to do things like a shelter in place and social distancing as preventative measures. Let's take another step, just abundance of caution and make sure that no one's spreading the disease inadvertently.
Lehrer: Didn't we know weeks and months ago that asymptomatic people can spread the disease?
Mayor: No, we just didn't have evidence from all the global medical community that was studying this issue. There was suspicion, but there was not evidence. And the concern throughout was, we did not want to have a situation where people were taking the supply of surgical masks and N95’s away from the people who are doing the life and death work who must be protected. We did not want to create an artificial demand there, nor did we want to create a sense that if you had something over your face, you didn't need to practice social distancing, you didn't need to shelter in place, which are much more profoundly important strategies. This is a new approach based on new data that says this is an additional measure. It makes sense to protect the whole community somewhat more. But it's still an area where we have imperfect data, because we have imperfect data bluntly about coronavirus in general. It's a smart precaution. Now, you don't need to do it when you're around the people that you're in your own household with, you don't even socially distance with people you're in your whole household with.
If you’re out in the street and you're truly alone, you're distanced, you don't do it then either. It's when you think you might come in closer contact with people despite social distancing as a precaution, that's when you put a face covering on.
Lehrer: Two things about masks and gloves for that matter. One is just, I will reinforce, and I presume you will too, tell me if you don't, that masks and gloves can give people a false sense of security when these items become contaminated themselves. So, you still have to keep six feet. You still have to wash your hands and many people don't realize we actually have to treat the masks and gloves like contaminated, dangerous themselves when we take them off. So, masks and gloves in some cases can do more harm than good unless people use them exactly right. And the second thing is, I know people can make masks themselves, but they need the right materials, and the quality of protection of a homemade mask might vary widely. So, what's your vision of how 8 million New Yorkers are going to get masks without competing with the health care workers for them?
Mayor: So, the first part of your question I think was right on the money. The second part of your question, honestly, I think is inadvertently misleading. It's not about protection. That's what I'm trying to get across. And it's not me talking, it's our health commissioner, it's our deputy commissioner for disease control who are folks who are studying everything that's been produced by the global medical community. Putting on a scarf, a bandana, a homemade item to make sure that you're not inadvertently spreading the disease to others because you have no indication you even have it, that's all this is and we were very blunt about it.
Lehrer: Only that, not for protection, incoming, even minimally –
Mayor: Yes, correct. There's just not enough evidence to suggest otherwise based on what the doctors are telling me. We're trying to tell people what we know, which changes as more studies come in, obviously, in a disease that no one ever heard of six months ago. But here's the bottom line, so you can use household items, you can use a scarf or bandana – it’s to just keep your own breath from not inadvertently spreading this if you happen to have it and don't know it. That's the name of the game. That's why it's just additional smart guidance. What you said in the first part of your question is 100 percent true. First of all, the way to stop the spread, the way to slow, you know, and bend the curve, is shelter in place, it is the social distancing, and it is the constant cleaning hands, hand sanitizing, you know, covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze. All those fundamentals are much more important than anything for the every-day person than a face covering could achieve. In terms of the strategy for how to protect this city and bend this curve, the previous policies are the core strategy still. Now, your point about when some people have had some kind of gloves or some kind of mask and they've thrown them on the street, you're right, that's fundamentally dangerous. Not only is it littering. it's dangerous littering. Anything that you've been wearing needs to be discarded. Some things are cleanable, some things are not. There's guidance out there about that. But the point is, when something needs to be discarded, you can't leave it around because it could create its own danger. That's exactly right.
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