U.S. senators join calls for Americans to don masks to slow coronavirus spread


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two U.S. senators joined a growing call on Wednesday for Americans to cover their mouths and noses when they venture outside, as health officials consider recommending that everyone in the country don face masks to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Democrat Michael Bennet of Colorado said his wife, Susan Daggett, was among the many Americans sewing handmade protective masks and promised to send one to Senator Pat Toomey, the Pennsylvania Republican joining him in the push for wider mask use.

“We really want to get some traction behind this,” Toomey told reporters on a conference call with Bennet.

The idea of universal face mask use had been largely rejected earlier in the health crisis. It has since been gathering support with the growing belief by health experts that many people who have no idea they are infected are spreading the virus because they either have no symptoms or have not begun to experience symptoms.

U.S. health officials said on Tuesday they were discussing whether to recommend the general public wear masks with the highly contagious COVID-19 respiratory illness spreading rapidly across the country.

President Donald Trump told a briefing he would urge ordinary people to use scarves, to ensure that masks remain available for health professionals on the front lines of the pandemic.

Toomey said he discussed the issue of wider mask use with his fellow Republican Trump by telephone on Tuesday. “He is very open to this,” Toomey said.

Researcher Jeremy Howard of the University of San Francisco, has been calling on Americans to wear face masks when outside. He published an opinion piece on March 28 in the Washington Post on the issue and has promoted the social media hashtag #Masks4All.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Berkrot