Lifestyle Health If All Americans Wore Masks 'We Could Drive This Epidemic to the Ground,' Says CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said that just four to six weeks with all Americans wearing masks could significantly slow COVID-19 transmission By Julie Mazziotta Julie Mazziotta Twitter Julie Mazziotta is the Sports Editor at PEOPLE, covering everything from the NFL to tennis to Simone Biles and Tom Brady. She was previously an Associate Editor for the Health vertical for six years, and prior to joining PEOPLE worked at Health Magazine. When not covering professional athletes, Julie spends her time as a (very) amateur athlete, training for marathons, long bike trips and hikes. People Editorial Guidelines Published on July 14, 2020 02:05PM EDT Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images Nationwide use of face masks could significantly slow the spread of COVID-19 and end the epidemic in four to six weeks, Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control, said Monday. Speaking at a press conference in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, which encompasses Charlotte, where COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise, Redfield urged people to wear masks. “If all of us would put on a face covering now for the next four weeks, six weeks, we could drive this epidemic to the ground,” he said. Social Distancing and Masks Are Effective in Reducing the Spread of Coronavirus, Study Confirms North Carolina is one of the nearly two dozen states, along with the District of Columbia, that requires its citizens to wear masks in public. Redfield emphasized that wearing masks is scientifically proven to make a difference in reducing the spread of COVID-19. “We are not defenseless against this virus. We actually have one of the most powerful weapons you could ask for,” he said. “The most powerful weapon we have that I know of is wearing face coverings.” He continued: “The most important thing that I could ask the American public to do is to fully embrace face coverings, to fully embrace careful hand hygiene, and to fully embrace social distancing.” Though the CDC first recommended that Americans start wearing face masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on April 3, the Trump administration has refrained from requiring all Americans to wear masks, instead leaving the decision up to individual states. While the majority of Americans say they are wearing masks in public, others have refused, falsely claiming that it goes against their rights or is dangerous to their health. Department of Justice Warns Against ‘Fraudulent’ Face Mask Exemption Cards President Donald Trump himself has also resisted wearing a mask in public for months, and even mocked Joe Biden for wearing one in May. But as COVID-19 cases began to soar in most of the U.S. following Memorial Day weekend, critics called on Trump to start wearing them as an example to Americans. He wore one publicly for the first time on July 11, during a visit to Walter Reed National Medical Center. In the months since the CDC’s recommendation, several studies have confirmed that masks are effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19. The virus primarily spreads through respiratory droplets from the nose and mouth and when people are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, and often unaware that they have COVID-19. By wearing masks, the risk of virus transmission goes down by 85 percent, according to a study published in the journal Lancet. Wondering What Kind of Face Mask to Buy? These Are the Most Effective Options, Study Finds Another study, from Florida Atlantic University, determined that multi-layer, sewn face masks, like those available on Etsy or from many clothing retailers, were the most effective non-medical masks, and reduced respiratory spray from 8 feet to just 2.5 inches. As of Tuesday morning, more than 3,379,900 Americans have tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 135,402 have died, according to The New York Times.