Updated CDC guidance shows masks protect the wearer and others

Grant Boone
November 12, 2020

The new American stance goes beyond United Kingdom government guidance, which says that non-medical face coverings, such as cloth masks, are " largely meant to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth".

The CDC said early research supports community masking to lower virus spread, particularly when it's estimated that more than half of transmissions stem from asymptomatic people.

"Further research is needed to expand the evidence base for the protective effect of cloth masks and in particular to identify the combinations of materials that maximize both their blocking and filtering effectiveness, as well as fit, comfort, durability, and consumer appeal", the CDC report concluded.

According to WNEM, the new guidance cites a number of studies showing that masks reduce the risk of transmitting or catching the virus by more than 70% in various instances.

In another study of 124 households in Beijing with less than one case of Covid-19, mask use by the patient and family contacts before the patient developed symptoms reduced secondary transmission within the households by 79 per cent.

Throughout the pandemic, health experts have recommended the use of face masks to protect oneself from the virus.

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In a report updated Tuesday, the CDC says that is still the primary intention of wearing masks.

"This is good. Formal acknowledgment by CDC on masks is important", tweeted Joseph Allen, a professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the school's Healthy Buildings Program.

"An economic analysis using USA data found that. increasing universal masking by 15% could prevent the need for lockdowns and reduce associated losses of up to $1 trillion or about 5% of gross domestic product", the agency wrote.

While the CDC cites seven different studies in their guidance that have confirmed a benefit with universal masking, the agency notes that data concerning the real-world impact of these policies on the community are limited due to many studies' observational and epidemiological designs.

"Masks are primarily meant to reduce the emission of virus-laden droplets ('source control'), which is especially relevant for asymptomatic or presymptomatic infected wearers who feel well and may be unaware of their infectiousness to others, and who are estimated to account for more than 50% of transmissions", according to the CDC. Higher-thread-count masks may filter almost 50% of fine particles less than 1 micron, whereas an N95 mask protects down to 0.1 microns.

The masks should also be "large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose, mouth, and chin without gaping". "Their masks protect you". While the design makes sense, there now lacks sufficient evidence from independent studies to determine whether antiviral-coated masks protect wearers or prevent spread of the virus better than other masks.

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