COVID: CDC updates mask guidance

By Katherine Dillinger and John Bonifield, CNN

(CNN) – US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its mask information to the American public on Friday, that includes clarifying that some types of masks and respirators offer more protection from the coronavirus than others and giving consumers tips on what to look for when shopping for them.

“Masking is an important public health tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and it is important to remember that any mask is better than no mask,” the CDC said in a statement.

The updated guidelines recommend that Americans wear the most protective mask or respirator they can find that fits well and that they will wear consistently.

“Some masks and respirators provide a higher level of protection than others, and some may be harder to bear or wear consistently than others,” the new guidelines say. “It is most important to wear a well-fitted mask or respirator that is comfortable for you and that provides good protection.”

The information was last updated in October. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Valensky said Wednesday that the agency plans to update the information to reflect the options available to people and the level of protection provided by different masks.

“Loosely woven fabric products provide minimal protection, layered finely woven products provide more protection, well-fitted disposable surgical masks and KN95 provide even more protection, and well Fitting (National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety)-approved respirators (including N95) provide the highest level of protection,” states the CDC.

The updated guidelines note that “a protective mask or respirator may be most important for certain high-risk situations, or by some people at increased risk for serious illness.” It also includes:

  • When you are caring for someone who has COVID-19
  • when you are on an airplane or public transport, especially for long periods
  • When you’re working at a job where you come into contact with a lot of people, especially when not everyone is masked
  • When you’re not up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines
  • If you have a risk factor for a serious illness such as a weakened immune system or a certain medical condition
  • when you are in a crowded public place, either indoors or outdoors

Masks are still not recommended for children under age 2, but the CDC recommends “universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of their vaccination status or whatever the transmission rate of the area.”

The updated guidelines provide tips for achieving a better fit and more protection, such as:

  • Wear two masks (a cloth mask over a disposable one).
  • Combine a cloth or disposable math fitter or brace.
  • Knot and tuck the ear loops of the fabric masks where they meet the edge of the mask.
  • Fold and tuck the excess material on the disposable mask under the edges.
  • Use a mask attached to the back of the head and neck with an elastic band or tie (instead of ear loops).

The CDC says consumers looking for masks that meet quality standards can find some labels such as “meets ASTM F 3502” or “meet workplace performance” and they can find more information on personal protection. You can visit the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health website for more information. Device

The agency also says that some respirators do not meet international standards and has links to sites for more details.

The CDC says those specifically labeled “surgical” N95 “should be reserved for use by healthcare workers.”

“These updates to our webpage reflect the science on masking, including what we’ve learned over the past two years,” the agency said in the statement. “We will continue to share the science of masking as it becomes available.”

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