Vice President Mike Pence speaks as President Donald Trump listens during a news briefing on the latest development of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. at the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House March 18, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Pence and wife to be tested for coronavirus
00:50 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

President Donald Trump on Saturday suggested health care workers sanitize and reuse masks when treating coronavirus patients, rather than “throwing away” masks that are in short supply.

“I have to tell you, the throwing away of the masks, being in private business, the throwing away of the mask right away, they’re throwing it away,” Trump said during Saturday’s White House coronavirus briefing.

Suggesting that health care workers instead clean and reuse the masks, the President said: “We have very good liquids for doing this, sanitizing the masks, and that that’s something they’re starting to do more and more. They’re sanitizing the masks.”

It is unclear which type of mask the President was describing, but US Food and Drug Administration guidelines for the common N95 respirator masks state they “should not be shared or reused.”

Neither the FDA nor Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines suggest the possibility of sanitizing masks for safe reuse.

During the briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned that hospitals should consult the CDC’s guidelines for extended use and limited reuse of N95 masks. But Fauci, a doctor for the National Institutes of Health for more than 50 years, did not discount the idea of reuse.

“There are CDC guidances about how you can minimize the use of masks by different things that you could do with testing and when you have masks, how you might reuse them, which ones you can reuse,” Fauci said.

In fact, the CDC’s guidance on coronavirus does mention “limited re-use of facemasks,” but cautions “it is unknown what the potential for contact transmission is” for coronavirus. It also states that “not all facemasks can be re-used”

The CDC guidelines do address suggestions for possible reuse of N95 masks, including the use of a cleanable face shield.