The World Health Organization reversed course on face masks yesterday. It's now encouraging people to wear them to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

The general public should use fabric masks in high-spread areas, the WHO said, or whenever social distancing is impossible. The global health agency also said that all health workers, not just those caring for Covid-19 patients, should wear masks in clinical areas.

In an effort to make more masks available for health workers, the WHO had previously advised the public to avoid wearing them if they were not sick or caring for someone who is ill. The policy shift is another reminder of the constantly evolving challenges faced in the fight against the virus.

Hydroxychloroquine provides another example. Initial studies suggested the malaria drug may help Covid-19 patients recover faster. But subsequent trials have disproved that research, with one study suggesting the drug might be harmful, prompting the WHO to suspend its trials.

While that study has since been retracted, and the WHO is now saying it's safe to resume trials, the United Kingdom abruptly ended its trial yesterday. Its researchers found the drug doesn't work against Covid-19.

In the rush to find a vaccine, mishaps are to be expected. But scientists warn there is little room for error if one is to be developed by January. "Everything will have to go incredibly perfectly if that's going to happen," said Dr. Larry Corey, a virology and vaccine development expert.

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED

Q: Can you safely reuse a non-cloth mask that you can't wash, like a disposable mask?

A: Yes you can, says Dr. Joseph Vinetz, an infectious diseases professor at Yale School of Medicine.

To disinfect masks that you can't wash, Vinetz recommends leaving them in a clean, safe place for a few days. After that, they should no longer be infectious, as this coronavirus is known to survive on hard surfaces for no more than three days.

You can reuse cloth masks, too. Just launder them between each use on a high-heat setting.

Learn more about which masks to choose, and how you can make your own (without having to sew), here.

Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you're facing: +1 347-322-0415.

WHAT'S IMPORTANT TODAY

Peruvians cry out for oxygen

People collapse on the street. Others drag desperately ill relatives to hospitals that won't admit them. Distraught children ask why their parents were left to die.

The coronavirus outbreak in Peru is spiraling out of control and experts fear it will only worsen.

Oxygen tanks, an important weapon against the virus, are in short supply, and they have come to symbolize the chaos in Peru. Desperate citizens have turned to a burgeoning black market, with tanks listed for sale at exorbitant prices on social media and e-commerce sites, as Jack Guy and Claudia Rebaza report.

Cases rise faster than ever

The infection rate has slowed in most countries hit hard early on in the pandemic, including China, the US, UK, Italy, Spain and France. But global numbers show it's far from over.

In many countries, particularly in South America, the Middle East and Africa, transmission rates are accelerating, according to a CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

Globally, confirmed cases are now rising at a rate of more than 100,000 a day over a seven-day period. In April new cases never topped 100,000 in one day. But confirmed daily cases have topped that number in nine of the past 10 days, reaching 130,400 cases on Wednesday.

Bolsonaro echoes Trump

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has threatened to leave the WHO for what he calls "ideological" bias, citing US President Donald Trump's recent announcement that America will sever its relationship with the health agency.

"We don't need foreign people having a say in our health here," Bolsonaro said yesterday.

Brazil has recorded 1,005 new coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, raising the country's death toll to 35,026. Brazil has recorded more than 600,000 cases, second only to the US.

Americans risk their health while trying to protect it

Roughly one third of Americans surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have used some kind of risky cleaning practice to stop the spread of Covid-19, the organization said yesterday.

People have put bleach on their food. Others have gargled or inhaled it. And some have washed their bodies with household cleaning and disinfectant products.

The CDC has advice for people who want to clean properly and safely: always read product instructions, wear gloves or other protective gear and don't mix cleaning chemicals.

ON OUR RADAR

  • Hearing George Floyd say "I can't breathe" as a police officer knelt on his neck has been painful for many doctors, nurses and health care workers who have spent the past few months fighting to help Covid-19 patients get just one more gasp of air.
  • The "Operation Warp Speed" vaccine program, with its emphasis on quick production and testing of experimental coronavirus vaccines, is fueling fears, two experts warn.
  • A 9-year-old Kenyan boy who made a wooden machine for washing hands in an effort to limit the spread of Covid-19 has received a presidential award.
  • Worried about coronavirus while having sex? Wear a mask and avoid kissing, new guidance says.
  • Film and television production companies in California will soon be allowed to send their employees back to work.
  • RV sales and rentals are booming, as Americans look for safe ways to get away during the pandemic.
  • Britain's Prince William says he has been volunteering to assist people struggling with mental health issues during the lockdown.
  • YouTube Originals is celebrating the class of 2020 with a star-studded group of commencement speakers -- headlined by former President Barack Obama and ex-first lady Michelle Obama -- and performers honoring this year's graduates.

TOP TIPS

The pandemic has made a lot of social situations awkward. So here are some tips on what to do when a stranger gets too close at the grocery store or an acquaintance goes in for a handshake.

The bottom line: With a little kindness and a carefully chosen word or two, we can awkwardly forge our way forward, together. No handshakes necessary.

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