Dec. 4 (UPI) — Compelling evidence now supports the benefits of cloth face masks to prevent people with COVID-19 from spreading it, as well as to prevent people without the coronavirus from picking it up, according to guidance released Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Citing evidence from studies of the protective effects of face coverings, the agency now recommends “universal use of face masks” — except while at home.
Research published earlier this fall indicates that face coverings, including N95 masks without valves, block up to 80% of the fine respiratory droplets that are emitted from the nose and mouth when breathing or talking.
These respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19 if people infected with the virus don’t take precautions, including wearing masks, to prevent others from being exposed to them, even when they have no outward symptoms, the CDC said.
“Consistent and correct use of face masks is a public health strategy critical to reducing respiratory transmission of [COVID-19], particularly in light of estimates that approximately one half of new infections are transmitted by persons who have no symptoms,” the agency said in the report released Friday.
Since the spring, when the pandemic first began to make its way across the United States, the CDC has recommended face masks for people aged 2 and older, but has not expressly stated that masks should be worn outdoors and indoors, by everyone, except while at home.
Mandating the use of masks in public has been controversial and the cause for protest in some parts of the country, in spite of the scientific evidence supporting their important role in preventing spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses.
President-elect Joe Biden has indicated he plans to ask the public to wear masks for 100 days after he takes office.