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As US nears 300,000 COVID-19 deaths, #IWearAMaskBecause hashtag urges fellow Americans to remain vigilant

More than 14.5 million people in the U.S. have had COVID-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. On Saturday, thousands of people on Twitter started using the hashtag #IWearAMaskBecause to show why now, more than ever, it's critical for communities to remain vigilant in reducing the spread of COVID-19. 

The trend seemingly began with a video from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that featured scientists and health care workers sharing their own reasons for wearing masks. Many declared it's to make sure they don't accidentally spread the virus to their loved ones and communities. Others said they are simply tired of seeing people die. 

The social media discussion comes a day after the CDC shared its strongest mask guidance yet regarding the pandemic. On Friday, the organization called for "universal mask wearing," urging all American to wear a mask at all times when they are not at home. Thousands of people died because of complications from COVID-19 this week, bringing the U.S. death toll to more than 280,600 people. 

COVID-19 was also the leading cause of death in the U.S. this week, according to a report from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The institute found that more people died from COVID-19 than from tracheal, bronchus and lung cancer, and chronic obstructive disease combined

By 6 p.m. on Saturday, and within hours of the CDC releasing the video, there were more than 35,000 tweets featuring the hashtag. 

Many Twitter users echoed similar sentiments as the CDC workers. Others, including former CIA disguise officer Emily Brandwin, shared how COVID-19 has personally impacted their families.

"I watched my Aunt die from Pulmonary Fibrosis, a disease that slowly steals your ability to breathe," Brandwin tweeted. "I never want anyone to desperately fight for each & every breath. Masks saves lives."

One user shared a photo of a 19-year-old who they say died 67 days ago from complications of COVID-19. 

"I don't want one more family to go through the pain that our family is going through," the person wrote. "Isn't 273,000 families enough yet?"

Others encouraged people to take care of themselves, and expressed that if the majority of people had been wearing masks over the past few months, it could have reduced the toll of cases and deaths. 

The CDC has said that the more people who wear masks consistently and correctly, the more protected communities will be. COVID-19 is mostly transmitted by respiratory droplets, which are easily spread when people cough, sneeze, sing, talk or breathe, the CDC has said. The organization has also warned that some particles are airborne and can linger in the air, putting people at risk of contracting the virus even if they are more than six feet away from others, and especially if they are indoors in a poorly ventilated area. 

More than half of COVID-19 transmissions stem from asymptomatic people, the CDC estimates. 

New York fashion designer Kenneth Cole urged his more than 197,000 followers to "take care of your/their body," and said wearing a mask "is more comfortable than a ventilator."

One health care worker said, "I know it works." 

"Because if we had all been wearing, everyone everywhere, we would have lost less people to this stupid awful disease," the person tweeted. "I don't want to lose any more humans." 

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