US CDC urges Americans to wear ‘most protective mask you can’

2022 01 15T021119Z 3 Lynxmpei0D10I Rtroptp 4 Health Coronavirus Usa

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday revised their guidelines for Americans to wear masks to protect against COVID-19, recommending they “wear the most protective mask you can” while not advocating for nationwide use of N95 respirators.

The CDC, an agency criticized by critics for providing fluctuating and confusing guidelines during the pandemic, clarified on its website “that people can choose respirators such as N95s and KN95s, including addressing concerns about supply shortages for N95s.”

Americans should wear “the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently,” the CDC added.

The United States leads the world in COVID-19 deaths — about 850,000 — even as it battles a wave of cases of the rapidly spreading Omicron coronavirus variant. Complicating matters is the refusal of some Americans to be vaccinated.

President Joe Biden said on Thursday the federal government plans to make “high-quality masks” available to Americans for free. In another move, the White House said Friday that the government will send 500 million COVID-19 tests to Americans for free later this month.

The CDC said it wants to encourage Americans to wear masks rather than forcing them to wear the highest quality face shields, but also explicitly said respirators provide the best level of protection. It said that “loosely woven fabric products offer the least protection.”

“Mask is a critical public health tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and it’s important to remember that any mask is better than no mask,” the CDC added.

The CDC said the revised recommendations “reflect the science about masking, including what we’ve learned over the past two years,” since the start of the pandemic.

More Americans have recently opted for higher-end protection amid the wave of cases.

The United States has about 1,800 COVID-19 deaths and 780,000 new infections — the most in the world — as well as record levels of hospitalized patients every day.

According to a Reuters analysis, the Omicron-related wave appears to be slowing in the areas first hit, including states to the northeast and south. In western states, the number of new cases has increased by 89% in the past week compared to the week before.

The CDC announced last May that fully vaccinated people could shed their face coverings as COVID-19 cases declined. But in July, the CDC said fully vaccinated people should wear masks in indoor public places in regions where COVID-19 was spreading rapidly. The CDC said this week that 99.5% of US counties are currently covered by the mask recommendation.

Some US N95 makers told Reuters they had record N95 sales after Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, recommended on CNN that Americans “get the highest quality mask you can tolerate and available to you. “

Properly worn N95 masks filter at least 95% of the particulate matter in the air, preventing anything larger than 0.3 microns from passing through.

Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous, on Monday will require some employers to provide “medical” masks — surgical masks, KF94, KN95s or N95s — to employees at high risk of COVID-19 infection at work .

Masks remain polarizing. Biden, a Democrat, again this week urged people to wear masks, noting that about a third of Americans report not wearing a mask at all. Many Republican states do not have mask requirements. Some Democrat-administered states, such as California, have reimposed mandates for inner masks.

Blair Childs, an executive at Premier Inc, a group hospital buying company, expressed concern about legislation backed by US Senator Bernie Sanders that would send every person in the country a package of three N95 masks. Childs said such proposals could “confuse the healthcare supply chain”.

Days after taking office in January 2021, Biden imposed mask requirements on planes, trains and public transportation and at airports and other transit hubs — actions his predecessor Donald Trump refused to take. Biden last month extended transit mask requirements until March 18. The CDC said Friday that N95 masks could be considered for use in places such as transit “when more protection is needed or desired.”

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