The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance on Tuesday saying that masks protect wearers from contracting COVID-19, not just those around them.
Previously, the agency said the main benefit of face coverings was to prevent those infected with the virus from spreading it to other people.
Specifically, health officials feared that asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people may be unaware that they are ill and transmit the disease.
But in the updated recommendations, the CDC stated that cloth masks act as ‘source control’ to block droplets from being exhaled by the wearer and also provide ‘filtration for personal protection’ by preventing droplets from reaching others.
It comes as cases of the virus continue to rise in the US and current hospitalizations topped 60,000 for the first time on Tuesday.
In new recommendations, the CDC said wearing masks protects wearers from contracting COVI9-19 not just people around them. Pictured: Shoppers at a farmer’s market in Union Square in New York City,
The CDC says cloth masks as ‘source control’ to block exhaled infected droplets and ‘filtration’ for preventing droplets from reaching others. Pictured: Customers get their temperature taken before entering Shake Shack, New York, September 2020
‘Experimental and epidemiological data support community masking to reduce the spread’ of the coronavirus, the CDC said in its new guidance.
‘The prevention benefit of masking is derived from the combination of source control and personal protection for the mask wearer…Individual benefit increases with increasing community mask use.’
Studies have found that multi-layer cloth masks can block 50 percent to 70 percent of exhaled fine droplets and particles, and limit those that are not captured from forward spread.
In addition, masks with a high thread count can protect wears by filtering nearly 50 percent of fine particles less than one micron – thinner than a human hair.
The report listed several epidemiological and observational studies that the CDC says backs up its claims about masks.
One study was about two hair stylists who had COVID-19 symptoms, but none of their 67 clients, all of whom wore masks, contracted the virus.
Another study looked at the outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which found that masks reduced the risk of infection by 70 percent.
The CDC also provided an economic argument and said universal mask wearing could prevent the needs for future shutdowns.
The agency said if the proportion of people who wore masks rose by 15 percent in the US lockdowns could be averted, as well as associated economic losses of up to $1 trillion, or about fiver percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
‘Adopting universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns, especially if combined with other non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, hand hygiene, and adequate ventilation,’ the CDC wrote.
In an interview on MSNBC, Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said mask-wearing is a ‘two-way street.’
‘Recent data has now shown that as a matter of fact, there’s also the added benefit to protect you from droplets and virus that’s coming your way,’ he said.
‘You protect others. Their masks protect you. And your mask also protects you.’
Additionally, President-elect Joe Biden has not only encouraged people to wear masks, but says he supports a mask mandate across the country.
‘This is not about Democrat, Republican or Independent,’ he said during a speech in August.
‘This is about saving American lives, so let’s institute a mask mandate nationwide, starting immediately.’
The new administration’s recently released plan does not include a nationwide mask mandate and rather suggests working with governors and mayors for them to enact local mandates.