Michael Bennet urges Coloradans to use homemade masks to protect against coronavirus spread

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is urging Americans to wear homemade masks to help fight the spread of coronavirus, a do-it-yourself option he wants federal health officials to begin encouraging.

“I know from my own personal experience it is awkward to walk around wearing a mask when everyone else is not wearing one and I think that’s another reason why it’s important for the CDC to weigh in here, because it will give everyone a sense of what their responsibility is to each other,” said Bennet, a Denver Democrat, on a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

Bennet was joined on the call by Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, as the two made their bipartisan case for homemade masks. Toomey said he has spoken to President Donald Trump and Trump is largely on board with the idea, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not recommended it.

“I don’t think we’re trying to get ahead of the CDC,” Bennet said. “We’re calling on the CDC to follow what seems to be pretty good evidence across the world that wearing a personally made mask can make a difference. We’re asking them to give guidance — more coherent guidance — to the country.”

Bennet’s wife, Susan, has been making masks for family members and friends. Bennet hopes the trend catches on and that manufacturers, artisans and amateur sewers join in, leading to a new societal norm during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Every now and then you see a mask (in Denver) but they’re pretty rare and for this to work, we need to reach a point where everybody decides that we’re going to do this,” Bennet said.

Bennet and Toomey stressed that most Americans should not purchase N95 masks, a high-quality model they want reserved for health care workers. Nor should people believe their homemade masks absolve them of the need to socially distance, remain at home whenever possible, and wash their hands often.

“My mask protects you and your mask protects me,” Bennet said. “I don’t think this is speculation. Countries like the Czech Republic, South Korea and Singapore have encouraged mask wearing and it has proven effective. We are in the middle of an unprecedented crisis and we need to do everything we can.”

Toomey says the CDC is discussing internally whether to recommend homemade masks. Bennet said the federal agency may be concerned such guidance would lead to hoarding or a decrease in other measures, such as social distancing. He believes those concerns can be mitigated through effective communication.

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