CDC mask guidelines spur confusion among hospitals

Healthcare facilities nationwide are grappling with conflicting CDC guidelines on masking amid the pandemic, resulting in a patchwork of policies and practices, Politico reported April 5.

CDC advises against wearing masks that are soiled or damaged, a guideline some hospitals have cited when asking patients to replace their N95 masks with surgical masks provided by the facility. After Politico reported on this practice last month, the CDC updated its guidelines, saying hospitals should let patients and visitors wear N95 masks, which are more protective.

Some hospitals have opted to let patients layer surgical masks over N95s, though the CDC warns against this practice because it can affect N95 masks' fit, making them less protective. Many hospitals are also providing employees surgical masks to work in, even though the CDC's website says these masks are less protective. 

In another sign of industry confusion, the American Hospital Association said it was not sure how to interpret the CDC's guidance. 

"We recommend you check with the CDC," association spokesperson Colin Milligan told Politico.

The CDC said it is not planning to change its mask guidelines again and recommends people visiting healthcare facilities use the most protective mask that fits well, spokesperson Kristen Nordlund told Politico on April 4. 

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