How To Pick The Best Mask For You; Tips For Safely Celebrating July 4th : Consider This from NPR Employers added 4.8 million jobs last month but the U.S. is still down 15 million jobs since February. And those new figures are from a survey before the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. rose in part due to Memorial Day weekend celebrations, when people went out to beaches and restaurants. From a report by NPR's Allison Aubrey, experts share tips on how to safely celebrate the Fourth of July

There's been a lot of mixed messaging on masks. Dr. Anthony Fauci tells NPR the government could have done a better job early on. And NPR's Maria Godoy reports on how to choose the best mask for you.

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Fauci Admits Government Fault On Masks; Celebrating July 4 Safely

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Fauci Admits Government Fault On Masks; Celebrating July 4 Safely

Fauci Admits Government Fault On Masks; Celebrating July 4 Safely

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Jobs increased by 4.8 million in June. There's a caveat, though. That data was from a survey taken before the recent surge in cases. And while it is very encouraging to see people going back to work, we are still down about 15 million jobs since February. One of those lost jobs belonged to Laura Carlson. The restaurant in Minneapolis where she worked is back open but only for outdoor dining, so they don't need her back yet.

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LAURA CARLSON: I feel like the longer I don't hear from them, the safer my family is going to be. So I'm not forced to make those decisions 'cause it's a very difficult and tough decision to make.

MCEVERS: Now that it's July, that decision is about to get even harder. At the end of the month, the extra $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits is going away.

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CARLSON: I've talked to some friends who are panicked about that. They're solely dependent on the extra 600 to make rent and make money.

MCEVERS: Coming up, Anthony Fauci on what the federal government got wrong about masks. And Texas does a 180 and now mandates masks. This is CONSIDER THIS from NPR. I'm Kelly McEvers. It's Thursday, July 2.

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MCEVERS: When it comes to the coronavirus, we do not want to behave the same way we did the last time we had a holiday weekend.

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DANA BASH: Many Americans are out and about on this Memorial Day, visiting newly reopened businesses and trying to get a taste of summer.

MCEVERS: Because now we are seeing surges in cases in the same places where beaches and restaurants opened and people went out.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "NEW DAY WITH ALISYN CAMEROTA AND JOHN BERMAN")

ROSA FLORES: Scenes from the unofficial kickoff to the summer showing many Americans not practicing social distancing measures.

MCEVERS: So how can we do better this weekend on the Fourth of July? For one, masks. When Illinois started requiring them in May...

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EMILY LANDON: The rates in Illinois came down tremendously.

MCEVERS: University of Chicago epidemiologist Emily Landon.

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LANDON: But if you look at face covering rules in other states...

MCEVERS: States that don't require masks.

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LANDON: ...I would argue that that may be playing a role in a resurgence.

MCEVERS: People should wear masks whenever they're around other people. It's that simple. And the other thing to remember is outdoors is better than indoors. But even there, social distancing matters.

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AARON CARROLL: No one's going to be heading to, like, the ballparks to watch fireworks. No one is going to - you know, there will be no big parades.

MCEVERS: Physician Aaron Carroll of Indiana University says even if you are outside at a small party, you still have to follow the rules.

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CARROLL: You know, certainly, even when we have backyard barbecues, we're going to have to be worried about, you know, still distancing and being careful and not sharing food.

MCEVERS: And if you're hosting people this weekend, it's a good idea to have them bring their own cups and their own food.

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CARROLL: Unfortunately, this is going to be the way it's going to be for quite some time.

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MCEVERS: Yesterday on the show, you heard Dr. Anthony Fauci tell NPR how important masks are. Another thing he said, though, is that the government itself hasn't always done the best job communicating that. My colleague Ari Shapiro has been looking into this, and he's going to take it from here.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Here's a tweet from what feels like another world - late February of this year. Quote, "seriously, people, stop buying masks. They are not effective in preventing general public from catching coronavirus. But if health care providers can't get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk." The person who wrote that tweet in February was the surgeon general of the United States, Jerome Adams. And the mixed messages didn't end there.

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DEBORAH BIRX: Let me just say one thing, though. The most important thing is the social distancing and washing your hands.

SHAPIRO: Exactly three months ago - April 2 - Dr. Deborah Birx confirmed reports that there was debate within the Trump administration about whether to recommend masks.

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BIRX: We don't want people to get an artificial sense of protection because they're behind a mask. And so this worries us, and that's why the debate is continuing about the mask.

SHAPIRO: Of course, today we know both things are true. Masks are not perfect, and also, they do prevent people from spreading the coronavirus. Even Vice President Mike Pence recently started wearing one. So why were Americans told they don't work?

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ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, you know, it was, I think, a lot of confusion about what you mean by work.

SHAPIRO: Dr. Anthony Fauci told my colleague Mary Louise Kelly there was a lot the experts didn't understand early on.

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FAUCI: I think what was really, I think, miscommunicated was that they are not perfect. It isn't like there's 100% protection. But one of the...

MARY LOUISE KELLY: We were told, if I may, sir, by the Surgeon General, stop buying masks. They're not effective...

FAUCI: Yeah but - yeah.

KELLY: ...In preventing the general public from catching coronavirus. That's what we were told. That's from a tweet from him, February 29.

FAUCI: Yeah, I know. I - you know, I don't want to go back and analyze a tweet. But to tell you now the data that we have right now - one of the things...

SHAPIRO: Fauci said back then the experts didn't know as much about how the virus could spread from people without symptoms, and the messaging reflected that. Also, health care workers were having trouble getting their own supplies of masks. Remember; the shortage was so bad that in March, the White House asked construction companies to donate supplies of masks to hospitals.

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FAUCI: But you are right, and we have to admit it that that mixed message in the beginning, even though it was well-meant to allow masks to be available for health workers - that was detrimental in getting the message across right now. No doubt about it.

SHAPIRO: Of course, masks don't totally solve the problem. Social distancing and hand-washing are still important, too. And not all masks are created equal. When you think about when and where to put one on, there are degrees of risk to consider. I talked with NPR health correspondent Maria Godoy about these issues.

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SHAPIRO: Hi, Maria.

MARIA GODOY: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Masks stop the spread of the coronavirus. We know that. That's important. We want to reiterate that. At the same time, I've seen people express concerns. One common one is, like, people are worried that wearing a mask might limit oxygen intake in ways that could be harmful. Is that anything people should actually be concerned about?

GODOY: You know, no, not for the types of cloth masks or surgical masks that the general public wears. The fibers they're made of aren't dense enough to block the exchange of gases like oxygen or carbon dioxide. And these masks aren't so tight that air can't get in around the sides.

Now, there is some evidence that wearing N95 respirators for long periods of time - like an hour or more - can reduce the amount of oxygen you take in, but those masks seal more tightly to the face. And the risk there is really for people who are predisposed to breathing problems like emphysema. So you know - and also, really, only medical workers should be wearing N95s because they're still in short supply.

SHAPIRO: You mentioned people with emphysema. What about people who have serious respiratory conditions? Is the mask calculation different for them?

GODOY: You know, actually, doctors say people with these conditions especially need to be masking up in public because they are at greater risk for severe disease if they get COVID-19. Even if someone, you know, relies on oxygen when they go out in public, they can wear a loose-fitting mask over their cannula, which is that tube that delivers air under their nose.

And if someone with a serious respiratory condition is having a really hard time breathing through a face mask, they should definitely talk to their doctor, but they could try a face shield. These are plastic shields that attach to the top of your head, and they go down past your chin, and they wrap around your ears. And they can block incoming respiratory droplets, though it's not yet known how well they protect other people from the wearer.

SHAPIRO: What about exercising with a mask? You're breathing heavily. You're sweating. The mask sticks to your face. What's your advice there?

GODOY: You know, that is a legitimate concern. If you're doing something like running or biking outdoors and you're alone or just with the people you live with, it's OK to pull down your mask as long as you haven't been touching stuff along the way, like benches or rails. If you see someone coming, pull up your mask until they pass. Indoor gyms are tricky because we know people who breathe heavily are likely to expel more respiratory droplets, and they aren't going to disperse as quickly as they would outdoors. So you really have to weigh the risk for yourself there.

SHAPIRO: And let me ask about comfort because people who are required to wear a mask at work all day say that after hours, it can become really uncomfortable. What advice do you have there?

GODOY: You know, experts say it's OK to take periodic breaks from wearing a mask. Just make sure you do it when no one's around. Maybe, you know, step outside first. And also, try out different masks to see what's more comfortable for you 'cause a mask is only useful if you actually wear it.

SHAPIRO: You mentioned that you can take it on and off. We've also been told we're not supposed to touch our mask when we wear it. So how do you reconcile that?

GODOY: You know, don't touch the front of the mask when you take it off so you don't touch any infectious droplets it might have blocked. And instead, you take it off by the ear loops. And you wouldn't want it to touch your mask if you're indoors, like in a store, where your fingers might have touched - you know, caught objects that have virus droplets from other shoppers. But if you're outdoors and solo and you haven't been touching stuff along the way, you haven't had a close chat with someone, it's OK to pull down your mask to catch your breath. You know, as one doctor told me, nobody is a hundred percent perfect with this. Just do your best.

MCEVERS: NPR health correspondent Maria Godoy talking to Ari Shapiro. And just one more thing. A month ago, on June 3, the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, issued an executive order banning local governments from imposing fines on people who did not wear masks. Today, with ICUs in Texas nearing capacity, the governor did a complete 180.

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GREG ABBOTT: This safe standard requires Texans to wear a mask in public spaces, with certain commonsense exceptions.

MCEVERS: He issued a new order that requires masks statewide in public places.

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ABBOTT: This requirement is not intended to be punitive. Instead, we just need everyone to do their part to help to slow the spread.

MCEVERS: Additional reporting in this episode was from NPR's Scott Horsley and Allison Aubrey. You can find a link to a full guide on masks from Maria Godoy in our episode notes. I'm Kelly McEvers. Thanks for listening. We'll be back with more tomorrow.

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