During his coronavirus press briefing last night President Trump made yet another ridiculous unfounded claim. Shocker.
When asked whether he will advise all citizens to start wearing masks, he appeared to suggest that they should just use scarves instead.
If people wanted to wear them, they can. If people wanted to use scarves – which they have, many people have them – they can. In many cases the scarf is better. It's thicker. I mean if you can... depending on the material it's thicker.
I mean, one of the things that Dr Fauci told me today is we don't want them competing, we don't want everybody competing with the hospitals. We really need them. So you can use scarves. You can use something else over your face.
While putting a scarf over your face probably can't hurt, there's absolutely no evidence that they are effective in preventing the spread of the virus – thickness notwithstanding.
It seems Trump is trying to find a way to assuage people's panic at the lack of masks available, but pretending other things are effective could be incredibly dangerous, as evidenced by the case of the man who died after taking chloroquine because he'd heard Trump say it was effective in treating coronavirus – another claim with no medical basis.
According to experts, medical masks are effective only when used in conjunction with proper social distancing and hand-washing measures, and primarily work if the person infected is wearing one, as opposed to wearing it for your own protection. Due to a shortage of masks, the CDC currently only directs people who are infected with the coronavirus (or those who are caring for people who are sick) to wear them.
If you do not have access to a mask and you want to take additional precautions because you think you've been infected, you can use a scarf to cover your face. This may go some way towards avoiding the spread, given that any droplets are more likely to be contained. However it could have the adverse effect of making people touch their own faces more.
There is certainly no evidence that the thickness of the material has an effect either way.
The CDC's only note on home-made masks (influding scarves) is that they have not been proven effective and should only be used as a "last resort" by medical professionals who have no other choice.