CDC updates mask information, stops short of changing recommendation

The CDC on Jan. 14 updated its consumer mask webpage to reflect the levels of protection different masks and respirators offer against COVID-19. 

"It is important to remember that any mask is better than no mask," the agency said in a statement announcing the webpage updates. "To protect yourself and others from COVID-19, CDC continues to recommend that you wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently." 

The updated webpage clarifies that some masks and respirators, such as N95s, offer higher levels of protection than others, and that "surgical N95s" are a specific type of respirator that should be reserved for healthcare settings. The site also emphasizes the importance of choosing a well-fitted mask. 

"Whatever product you choose, it should provide a good fit (i.e., fitting closely on the face without any gaps along the edges or around the nose) and be comfortable enough when worn properly (covering your nose and mouth) so that you can keep it on when you need to," the CDC said

The agency's director, Rochelle Walensky, MD, said the CDC did not plan on changing its official COVID-19 mask guidance to recommend people wear higher-quality masks over cloth ones. 

"CDC continues to recommend that any mask is better than no mask," Dr. Walensky 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." 

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.


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