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Sen. Brian Schatz, fellow senators propose free masks to reduce spread of coronavirus

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz is convinced that face masks work in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and wants Americans to be convinced, too.

Schatz, along with U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), today introduced a new bill that would increase the adoption of face coverings by providing free cloth masks to anyone who requests one.

The Masks Work Act of 2020 would also authorize a public service announcement campaign, and fund further research, on the efficacy of cloth face coverings in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

“The research is clear: masks work,” said Schatz in a news release. “We all need to do our part to comply with this simple and temporary public health recommendation to prevent the unnecessary spread of this virus and save lives.”

The SARS-CoV-2 virus has, to date, infected more than 4 million people across the United States, and caused more than 150,000 deaths.

Studies already show that face coverings are highly effective in reducing transmission of COVID-19, according to Schatz, and that high levels of cloth face-covering adoption may prevent asymptomatic or presymptomatic carriers from unknowingly infecting others.

The bill directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a program providing free cloth face coverings to any individual who requests one.

The legislation also directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create a public service announcement campaign informing Americans how cloth face coverings work, and why they are recommended by public health experts to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus.

In addition, the bill authorizes funds for the National Institutes of Health to conduct further studies on the efficacy of cloth face coverings in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

“Until an effective vaccine or treatment is developed, masks and physical distancing remain the best way to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” said Feinstein in a statement. “Evidence shows that masks not only reduce the chances of someone spreading the virus, they also may decrease the risk and severity of infection for the wearer. This is especially important given the prevalence of asymptomatic transmission. We must do everything we can to achieve universal mask use to stop the current surge of cases.”

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

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