Press Room

ASTHO Statement on Use of Face Coverings by the General Public to Prevent Spread of COVID-19

ARLINGTON, Va. (Apr. 3, 2020)—–Michael Fraser, chief executive officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), issued the following statement today on the use of face coverings by the general public to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"Potential spread of COVID-19 by pre- and asymptomatic individuals is a major concern as we look to prevent COVID-19 infections and reduce transmissions nationwide. Policies to adopt the widespread use of face coverings by the general public are being considered as a potential intervention to slow the spread of COVID-19.

"State and territorial health officials’ primary goal in the COVID-19 response is to mitigate and suppress the spread of COVID-19 so that communities may re-open, recover, and rebound. Despite scant evidence on the use of face coverings by the general public to reduce transmission of COVID-19, the widespread use of face coverings by the public as a tactic may help achieve these goals. The use of face coverings should be introduced as a complementary strategy to existing or new mitigation efforts; coverings should not be seen as a replacement for physical distancing measures and self-isolation when sick. In addition, steps should be taken to ensure the widespread use of face coverings does not adversely or unintentionally impact mask supply for healthcare, public health workers, and others on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.

"Finally, clear instructions should be provided to the public in appropriate literacy levels and in multiple languages on face covering use, as well as recommendations for cleaning and disposal."

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ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.