Coronavirus Pennsylvania: Gov. Wolf Asks All Residents To Wear Masks In Public As COVID-19 Cases Climb Above 8,400

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is asking all residents to wear a mask now when they go out in public as the number of coronavirus cases climbed above 8,400 on Friday. Pennsylvania health officials reported 1,404 new cases, bringing the statewide total to 8,420.

Twelve more people also died from COVID-19 as the death toll now stands at 102.

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Wolf now wants all Pennsylvanians to wear a mask when they have to leave the house.

“Wearing a mask will help cut down the possibility that we will be infecting an innocent bystander,” Wolf said during a state briefing.

Wolf joins a chorus of leaders urging people to wear masks aiming to control the spread of COVID-19.

“You protect the people around you. My masks protect you, your masks protect me,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said. “The idea is that this infection is widespread enough, this recommendation will help protect the people around those who are wearing a mask.”

President Donald Trump also announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising the use of non-medical masks as an additional voluntary public health measure.

The new advice on wearing masks or bandanas in public comes because COVID-19 is now so widespread.

People who are infected don’t always have symptoms or they can take days to show up.

Anyone you’re around could have the virus and it’s extremely contagious, especially for people in close contact.

The new mask recommendation is a change from earlier advice from health officials who said masks weren’t protective.

“All the guidance we provide to you is based on best available science at the time,” Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said.

Health officials emphasize, even with masks, it’s critical that people wash their hands a lot and not touch their face.

“A mask isn’t a pass to go back to work, visit friends or socialize,” Levine said.

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Officials stress that you don’t need surgical or N95 masks. They need to be saved for first responders and health care workers who are in close contact with people who have the virus.

If you can’t get a mask, you can make your own with material that’s tightly woven, ideally a high quality cotton.

Dr. Sadia Benzaquel is the chairman of the Department of Pulmonary Critical Care at Einstein Medical Center, which has seen a flood of positive patients admitted.

“At this point, we are almost at the level that we are at full capacity because of this pandemic,” Benzaquel said.

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He says face coverings likely won’t stop you from getting the virus, but they could prevent others from catching it if you’re infected but asymptomatic.

“That will prevent, if you cough, the amount of virus you are spreading,” Benzaquel said. “It’s not going to harm you using it. That’s what I would say.”

The Pennsylvania Health Department explains how to make a mask on its website. Click here for directions.

CBS3’s Stephanie Stahl and Greg Argos contributed to this report.