White House hints at COVID-19 mask use as cases top 200,000

COVID-19 oral swabbing
COVID-19 oral swabbing

Francisco Àvia, Hospital Clinic / Flickr cc

Today the United States recorded a total of 206,207 confirmed COVID-19 cases across the country, for another 20,000-plus-case daily jump, according to a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The death toll stands at 4,540, according to the New York Times.

Yesterday during the White House coronavirus task force briefing, President Trump said healthy Americans may want to consider wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"My feeling is, if people want to do it, there's certainly no harm to it. I would say do it," Trump said. "But use a scarf if you want, you know? Rather than going out and getting a mask or whatever."

Though the World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend the use of masks by healthy people, and many scientists argue the data do not support mask use (see today's commentary published by CIDRAP from two leading experts), the health advisers closest to the president have started to signal they may soon recommend homemade masks for Americans in the coming days.

Today US Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, echoed the president during an appearance on "Good Morning America." "We've learned there's a fair amount of asymptomatic spread and so we've asked the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] to take another look at whether or not having more people wear masks will prevent transmission of the disease to other people," Adams said.

Yesterday CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, told National Public Radio that as many as 25% of infected people are asymptomatic.

The federal COVID-19 task force also shared models that showed the pandemic could take between 100,000 to 240,000 American lives in the coming months. Deborah Birx, MD, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said the numbers came from several different models put out by Harvard University, Imperial College, and the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations.

Florida issues stay-at-home order

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis today ordered Floridians to stay home through Apr 30, after weeks of rejecting a statewide lockdown, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Florida was the only state with more than 5,000 cases that had not issued such and order. As of today, Florida has 6,955 cases with 87 deaths.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak also issued a stay-at-home order through the end of the month.

Michigan now has 9,334 cases and 337 deaths, with Detroit still a hot spot of activity. The state reported more than 1,700 new cases since yesterday, and 78 more deaths.

New York remains the heaviest-hit state, with 83,712 cases and 1,941 deaths, an increase of 400 fatalities in the past day. NBC News in New York reported that more than half of all the US cases come from the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, which together have nearly 110,000 cases and 2,300 fatalities.

Today Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced the death of a 6-week-old, who tested positive for COVID-19. "Testing confirmed last night that the newborn was COVID-19 positive. This is absolutely heartbreaking. We believe this is one of the youngest lives lost anywhere due to complications relating to COVID-19," Lamont tweeted.

Louisiana sees 1,100-case jump

The Louisiana Department of Health is reporting a total of 6,424 cases in that state, including 273 deaths. New Orleans has seen the most cases, but 60 out of 64 parishes across the state are recording cases. During a press conference, Governor John Bel Edwards said today's total reflects more than 1,100 new cases in a 24-hour period.

Yesterday US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said it was not time to evacuate the USS Theodore Roosevelt in light of more than 100 sailors aboard the ship with COVID-19, Reuters reported, despite a plea from the ship's captain.

Esper told CBS News the Pentagon was moving supplies to the carrier, stationed in Guam, and said none of the crew was seriously ill.

This week's top reads