The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Pandemic Action Network are partnering with more than 40 organizations to host World Mask Week which began Friday in an effort to increase the use of face coverings across the globe.
Wearing a mask in public spaces has been stressed by medical professionals as a primary way of slowing the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Dr. Ali Nouri, President of the American Federation of Scientists, said the event will help normalize wearing a face mask.
"If you're not masking, you're not just putting yourself at risk but you're putting other people at risk," said Nouri. "The more people that understand that and realize that their well-being depends on other people doing the right thing, that's going to generate more pressure, more momentum and more acceptability of masks."
Face masks slow the spread of the virus by blocking the spray of respiratory droplets that come from sneezing, coughing, talking, singing or shouting.
The goal of World Mask Week is to encourage people around the world to embrace the use of face masks until a vaccine is available. The initiative will be promoted through social media challenges calling on all people, including celebrities, politicians and health care workers, to post a statement, pictures, or videos of themselves wearing a mask with the tag #WorldMaskWeek.
While medical professionals support mask-wearing in public the issue has become controversial, with some in the U.S. protesting that mandating masks violates constitutional rights. President Donald Trump took to Twitter last month to promote masks for the first time.
Nouri noted COVID-19 can be spread from people who do not have symptoms. He said normalizing mask-wearing will save thousands of lives.
A model projection of COVID-19 deaths by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington showed if 95% of people in the U.S. wore a mask in public spaces, nearly 34,000 fewer people would die from the disease.
Michael Sheldrick, chief policy and government affairs officer at Global Citizen, hopes normalizing masks in public spaces and encouraging government officials to mandate them will help quell the pandemic.
"What we will continue to do is promote clear and consistent messaging to encourage governments also to promote public information campaigns around the effectiveness and importance of wearing masks in public," said Sheldrick. "This will ensure that it's both a common sense measure and an act of national and global social solidarity."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: CDC joins global movement to encourage use of face masks