March 24, 2020 / 6:00 PM / 12 days ago

True claim: CDC states fabric masks are crisis response when other supplies exhausted

Posts and images circulating on social media make the claim that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that fabric masks are an appropriate crisis response when other supplies have been exhausted ( here ).

The claim comes after a global shortage of medical supplies and protective gear amid the coronavirus pandemic ( here ).

This claim is accurate. According to crisis strategy guidelines published by the CDC, when no facemasks are available, options include the use of home-made masks, like scarfs and bandanas as a last resort, to be used with caution. Their site reads:

“In settings where facemasks are not available, HCP (healthcare personnel) might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort. However, homemade masks are not considered PPE, since their capability to protect HCP is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face.” ( here ).

Reuters reported that in Seattle, some doctors have been making their own face masks out of sheets of plastic, due to concerns over dwindling supplies, ( here ). Hospitals in other states have meanwhile issued emergency calls for private companies to donate face masks and other items that can be used as medical protective gear.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo is calling on businesses in the state to help produce medical equipment, including gowns and masks ( here ). The New York Times reported that in one Nebraska hospital, the shortage of supplies has medical personnel considering the use of UV light to disinfect masks and make them re-usable ( here ).

The crisis strategy guidelines published by the CDC ( here ) state that “limited re-use of N-95 respirators when caring for patients with COVID-19 might become necessary”, and given specific guidance for this situation ( here ).

VERDICT

True: the CDC says homemade masks can be used in crisis response when other supplies are exhausted, but acknowledges that effectiveness is unknown

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work here .

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