As the United States faces a tsunami of Covid-19 infections, with 2,200 daily deaths projected by mid-January, a national masking mandate is long overdue as part of a federal strategy to prevent further spread of the virus.
We also urgently need a national mask certification and labeling program to provide people with information that could help them choose which face coverings to wear.
When the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recently updated its guidance to underscore that wearing masks provides the dual benefit of protecting both the user and others, it also highlighted the need for more research on which materials best block and filter the virus.
CDC guidance that masks include two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric that cover the nose and mouth completely, secured under the chin and fit snugly around the face is helpful, but for the general public we must raise the bar.
For example, ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, which develops voluntary standards for manufacturers on a variety of products is developing mask design and performance guidance.
With a new administration in January 2021 an executive order by the President or guidance from the White House Coronavirus Task Force requiring masks to be worn on federal property could be issued as well as examining other governmental authorities for requiring face coverings to be used in public settings across states.