The CDC Recommends Cloth Face Coverings in Public to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19

Since the coronavirus outbreak, one of the many mixed messages that confused the public was regarding the use of facial masks. As images of masked people in China became associated with the coronavirus outbreak early on, it was quite confusing to many, when U.S. health officials advised against the use of facial masks. It was made clear that only surgical masks and N-95 respirators could adequately provide protection against the virus and that any other types could cause more harm than good.

However, as the virus has become a global pandemic and has begun to wreak havoc on the United States, health officials, including the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are able to study this new and dangerous novel coronavirus. According to the CDC, “We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in proximity – for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing – even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. Considering this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

The CDC makes clear that surgical masks and N-95 respirators should be reserved for first responders and healthcare workers. The public is advised to make simple cloth face coverings from common household items to snugly and securely fit against the side of the face; be secured over the earlobes or with ties; include multiple layers of fabric; breathable with no restrictions; and able to be laundered and machine dried without changing its shape. The CDC warns that “Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”

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