CDC sticks to guideline: 'Any mask is better than no mask'

The CDC does not plan on updating its COVID-19 mask guidance to recommend that people wear higher-quality masks over cloth ones.

"CDC continues to recommend that any mask is better than no mask," Rochelle Walensky, MD, CDC director said during a Jan. 12 White House news briefing. "We do encourage all Americans to wear a well-fitting mask to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID-19, and that recommendation is not going to change." 

Omicron's transmissibility has led health experts to scrutinize the effectiveness of reusable cloth masks. Some hospitals and health systems have urged patients and visitors to shift from cloth masks to medical-grade ones, including Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic. 

"While a high-quality cloth mask may perform similarly to a medical-grade mask, patients and visitors use a wide range of face coverings, making standardization necessary," Mayo Clinic said when it announced its shift Dec. 30. "Single-layer cloth masks, neck gaiters and bandanas are commonly worn, for example, and do not provide optimal protection to help ensure the health and safety of all."

The CDC recommends that everyone, regardless of vaccination status,  wear a mask indoors in areas of substantial or high transmission. For those not fully vaccinated, a mask is recommended in all indoor public spaces. The agency's "Your Guide to Masks" page also recommends people select masks that have two or more layers of fabric. 

Dr. Walensky said the agency is preparing to update the site to "best reflect the options that are available to people and the different levels of protection different masks provide." 

While CDC guidance isn't set to change, President Joe Biden's Administration is "strongly considering options to make more high-quality masks available to all Americans," Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said during the news briefing.

It's not yet clear what type of masks would be distributed or how Americans would receive them, though people familiar with the discussions said one option includes making masks available at community sites, The New York Times reports. 


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