On Friday April 3, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) recommended “the wearing of cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.” The CDC provides citations for several studies finding that individuals with coronavirus may lack symptoms and that pre-symptomatic individuals can transmit the disease. Notably, the CDC does not recommend using surgical masks or N-95 respirators because these are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and medical first responders. The purposes of this recommendation is to “slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.” The pronouncement also includes a video with U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams demonstrating how to make a face mask.
President Trump also issued an Executive Order directing the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to preserve certain medical equipment for domestic use under the authority of the Defense Production Act, such as N-95 Filtering Facepiece Respirators; Other Face Filtering Facepiece Respirators (N99, N00, R95, R99, R100, P95, P99, and P100); Elastomeric, air-purifying respirators and appropriate particulate filters/cartridges; PPE surgical masks; and PPE gloves or surgical gloves. In an accompanying press statement, President Trump stated that “the outbreak of the virus has led to wartime profiteering by unscrupulous brokers, distributors, and other intermediaries operating in secondary markets.” He also stated that the Executive Order will help to keep needed PPE in the U.S. and that “[n]othing in this order will interfere with the ability of PPE manufacturers to export when doing so is consistent with United States policy and in the national interest of the United States.”
Norton Rose Fulbright attorneys will continue to follow on a daily basis COVID-19-related developments pertinent to health care providers and publish regular updates in the Health Law Pulse.