In the ever-evolving world that is COVID-19 guidance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its “Considerations for Wearing Masks.” In the August 7 update, the CDC says that people should wear masks in public and when around people who do not live in their household. Wearing masks is particularly important when social distancing is not feasible.
The CDC recommends that we wear masks because “[m]asks may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.” Simple enough. And we improve the benefit of wearing masks if “they are widely used by people in public settings.”
As the CDC has said previously, “[m]asks should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”
The updated guidance is based on evidence that masks “help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice.” The CDC continues:
COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), so the use of masks is particularly important in settings where people are close to each other or where social distancing is difficult to maintain. CDC’s recommendations for masks will be updated as new scientific evidence becomes available.
If you know you have or think you might have COVID-19, the CDC says you should stay home and avoid public areas, except for medical care.
If you are caring for someone with COVID-19, the CDC says that you may wear a mask, but they do not know if wearing a masks provides protection.
The CDC acknowledges that it is not always feasible to wear a mask. Alternatives include clear masks that can facilitate communication.
With respect to face shields, the CDC notes that these devices are “primarily used for eye protection for the person wearing it” and they do not know if face shields provide protection to others. The CDC does not recommend face shields to substitute for masks. But a face shield is likely better than nothing. If you are going to wear a face shield, the CDC recommends: (1) face shields that wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend below the chin; and (2) hooded face shields.