US health authorities on Thursday advised medical personnel facing a shortage of protective masks to use bandanas or scarves in an emergency.
The guidance was among a series of recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for federal, state and local health care personnel (HCP) dealing with the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.
“In settings where facemasks are not available, HCP might use homemade masks (eg, bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort,” the CDC said.
“Caution should be exercised when considering this option,” the CDC added. “Homemade masks are not considered PPE (personal protective equipment), since their capability to protect HCP is unknown.”
Vice President Mike Pence said meanwhile that there has been a “dramatic increase in production” by private companies to meet the need for masks.
Pence told reporters at a daily coronavirus briefing in Washington that Honeywell and 3M had increased their production of N95 protective masks by the “tens of millions.”
He said 3M had ramped up production to 35 million masks a month.
Pence also said construction companies around the country were donating industrial masks to hospitals, many of which have complained that they are suffering severe shortages of the protective gear such as masks and gowns.
According to a tally by John Hopkins University, there are 10,755 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, and there have been 154 deaths.