The Centers for Disease Control is again urging Americans to wear masks, and ideally to upgrade them, after a new report showed that double masking or opting for a tightly fitting mask can almost completely stop transmission of COVID-19.
On Wednesday, the federal health agency released new research showing that transmission between an infected person and an uninfected person goes down 96.5% if they are both wearing a tightly fitting surgical mask or if they layer a cloth mask over a surgical mask.
"The bottom line is this: masks work and they work when they have a good fit and are worn correctly," said CDC director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky during a White House COVID-19 briefing. "With cases hospitalizations and deaths still very high, now is not the time to roll back mask requirements."
The CDC updated the guidance on their website to advise double masking and give tips on how to improve the fit of a surgical mask. The agency said that any gaps in the mask can let respiratory droplets in or out, and people can solve that issue by knotting the ear loops or tucking in the sides to bring it closer to the face.
"Any mask is better than none," Dr. John Brooks, lead author of the CDC study, told The New York Times. "There are substantial and compelling data that wearing a mask reduces spread, and in communities that adopt mask wearing, new infections go down." But, he said, their effectiveness increases with these more protective versions.
Currently, 36 states and the District of Columbia have some form of a mask mandate that requires people to wear a mask in public spaces, and the 14 states that do not have left it up to local governments, according to U.S. News. President Joe Biden does not have the ability to institute a nationwide mask mandate, but has urged all Americans to wear masks and signed several executive orders requiring them on federal property and on planes, trains and buses.
Cases of COVID-19 have significantly dropped in the last few weeks, from an all-time record of 300,594 daily cases on Jan. 8 to the current 7-day-average of 108,144 daily infections. New deaths and hospitalizations are also finally on the decline and the vaccination rate is increasing, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, has warned Americans not to get "complacent" and to continue following safety precautions like social distancing and mask-wearing with three new, faster-spreading strains of the virus now present in the U.S.
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