We the undersigned, scientists and public health advocates, urge public officials and leaders in communities and the private sector — corporate and nonprofit — to step up our efforts to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We all know that masks, hand washing, physical distancing and targeted stay at home directions are sensible public health directives in the fight against this pandemic. We also urge rapid advances on safe and effective therapeutics and vaccines.
We write to say it is time for a national effort to focus on driving major innovations in masks that are comfortable to wear, protect the wearer and those around them — by demonstrating in FDA or NIOSH prescribed testing that they are 95% or more effective in filtering viruses. We need masks that can be mass produced for the 100 million US households and workers at reasonable cost. There is strong scientific evidence that some face coverings are more effective in preventing the outbound dispersal of droplets (e.g. greater than 2 microns) or aerosols (e.g. less than or equal to 2 microns) that could contain the virus or thwart its intake.
Health care professionals and some essential workers on the frontlines of defense obtain significant protection from COVID-19 by wearing N95 and surgical masks. These masks are currently in short supply and are not comfortable to wear for more than a limited amount of time and are unlikely to be suitable for everyday use by consumers.
The technology behind these masks is decades old. With the technology available in the US, the challenge must be to design masks with N95 level protection for the wearer and an equally high level of protection for those around the wearer. These masks should be comfortable (more breathable), protective, and be mass produced at a reasonable cost.
We call on academic and industry leaders to design, develop, and manufacture at scale, better, more effective, comfortable, reusable, and affordable masks. Current technology is available to take the filtration rate to 95% or more to filter the virus. Surveys of consumers indicate the number one reason people refuse to wear masks is the belief that masks are not effective. Examples suggest it is possible to engineer a more comfortable mask with greater protection. Securing greater comfort in mask usage with sufficient filtration is a dramatic way to increase their adoption rate and usage patterns. Scale in manufacturing masks is necessary to lower the cost and drive up accessibility for all communities, especially those with jobs where physical distancing is especially difficult.
We call on the Federal government to exercise appropriate regulatory review and necessary certifications to assure the public that these products have been thoroughly tested.
In the meantime, before we have masks with higher filtration and comfort on a large scale, we call on the public to continue to wear the cloth masks that are now available as one of the current best means of preventing transmission, as was noted in the JAMA editorial of July 15, 2020 by US CDC leadership.
We are all in this together. To effectively reopen the economy everyone needs to feel safe indoors (e.g. in churches, schools, retail stores).
Bill Frist, M.D. — Former Senate Majority Leader
Tom Daschle — Former Senate Majority Leader
David Shulkin, M.D. — Former United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Kathleen Sebelius, M.P.A. — Former United States Secretary of Health and Human Services; Former Governor, Kansas
Andy Slavitt — Former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
Susan Desmond-Hellmann, M.D., M.P.H. — Former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Larry Brilliant, M.D., M.P.H. — Chairman of the Board, Ending Pandemics
George Rutherford, M.D. — Professor, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco
Tom Inglesby, M.D. — Director, Center for Health Security, John Hopkins
Bob M. Wachter, M.D. — Professor & Chair, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
Eric Topol, M.D. — Executive VP, Scripps Research
Aneesh Chopra, M.P.P. — Former Chief Technology Officer of the United States; Co-Founder & President, CareJourney
Bob Kocher, M.D. — Partner, Venrock Capital
Devabhaktuni Srikrishna, M.S. — Founder, www.patientknowhow.com
Harlan Krumholz, M.D., S.M. — Professor of Medicine (Cardiology), Yale School of Medicine
Lenny Mendonca — Former Chief Economist for Governor Gavin Newsom; Director Emeritus, McKinsey & Company
Mario J. Molina, Ph.D. — Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry
Ranu Dhillon, M.D. — Instructor, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School
Risa Lavizzo-Mourney, M.D. — Former CEO of Robert Wood Johnson, University of Pennsylvania
Robert Califf, M.D. — Former Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration
Salmaan Keshavjee, M.D., Ph.D. — Professor of Global Health, Harvard
James Greenwood — Former President & CEO, BIO
Vinay Gupta, M.D., M.P.A — health policy analyst
Joshua Gotbaum-Guest Scholar,Brookings Institution
Nahid Bhadelia, M,D. — Boston University
Jeffrey Kindler — CEO, Centrexion Therapeutics
Jeremy Levin, D.Phil., Chairman of the Board & CEO, Ovid Therapeutics
Kathy Hudson, Ph.D. — Former Deputy Director for Science, Outreach, and Policy, National Institutes of Health
Lanhee J. Chen, Ph.D. — Fellow in American Public Policy Studies at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Peter Drobac, M.D., M.P.H. — Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Oxford University
Jeff Bluestone, Ph.D. — CEO & President, Sonoma BioTherapeutics; Member, National Academy of Medicine
Jean-Francois Formela, M.D. — Partner, Atlas Ventures
Craig Spencer, M.D., M.P.H. — Director of Global Health in Emergency Medicine, New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center
Abraar Karan, M.D., M.P.H. — Massachusetts Department of Health, Resident Physician, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School
Kathleen Akgün, M.D. — Associate Program Director (Pulmonary), Yale School of Medicine
Alex Karnal M.S. — Co-founder, CEO & Board Chair, Institute for Life Changing Medicines; Managing Director, Deerfield Capital
Brad Zakes, M.S. — CEO, Cerevast
Carolyn Rochester, M.D. — Medical Director, COPD Program, Yale School of Medicine
Cedric Francois, M.D., Ph.D. — Co-Founder & CEO, Apellis Pharmaceuticals
Christian Merlo, M.D. — Associate Professor of Medicine, Johns Hopkins
Doug Doerfler, Ph.D.- CEO, Maxcyte
Elaine Fajardo, M.D. — Medical Director for Respiratory Therapy, Internal Medicine, Yale School of Medicine
Eric Dube, Ph.D. — President & CEO, Retrophin
Erika Smith — CEO, ReNetX Bio
Lauren Ferrante, M.D., M.H.S. — Assistant Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary), Yale School of Medicine
Lloyd Friedman, M.D. — Instructor, Yale School of Medicine
Gail Maderis — CEO, Antiva Biosciences
Bryan Garcia, M.D. — Assistant Professor, Medical University of South Carolina
George Weinstock, Ph.D. — Professor, Director of Microbial Genomics, The Jackson Laboratory
Gerard A. Silvestri, M.D., M.S. — Past President American College of Chest Physicians; Professor of Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina
Janet Hilbert, M.D. — Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine, Yale School of Medicine
Jim Tananbaum, M.D. — CEO & Managing Director, Foresite Capital
John Manganore, Ph.D. — CEO, Anylam
John Oyler — Chairman, Co-Founder & CEO, BeiGene
Jonathan Koff, M.D. — Associate Professor, Yale School of Medicine
Melissa Knauert, Ph.D. — Assistant Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary), Yale School of Medicine
Lonny Brett Yarmus, D.O. — Clinical Director, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins
Lynn Tanoue, M.D. — Professor of Medicine, Yale School of Medicine
Mark Pruzanski, M.D. — President & CEO, Intercept Pharma
Martin Babler — CEO, Principia Biopharma
Max G. Bronstein M.P.P. — Founder, Journal of Science Policy & Governance
Michael Morrissey, Ph.D. — President & CEO, Exelixis
Naftali Kaminski, M.D. — Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary), Yale
John Osborn — Hogan Lovells
Peter Kolchinsky, Ph.D. — Founder, RA Capital Management
Jennifer Possick, M.D. — Associate Program Director (Pulmonary), Yale School of Medicine
Rebekah E. Gee, M.D., M.P.H. — CEO, LSU Healthcare Services
Richard Matthay, M.D. — Professor Emeritus in Medicine (Pulmonary), Yale School of Medicine
Robert Wills, Ph.D. — Chairman of the Board, CymaBay Therapeutics, Inc.
Ron Cohen, M.D. — CEO, Acorda Therapeutics, Inc.
Scott Koenig, M.D., Ph.D. — President & CEO, MacroGenics Inc.
William Newell — CEO, Sutro Biopharma
David Beier — Managing Director, Bay City Capital, LLC