What are the new mask guidelines from the CDC? – The Village Doctor

What are the new mask guidelines from the CDC?

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What you need to know

  • UPDATE: Federal health officials are now urging Americans to consider wearing two masks to better protect themselves against the threat of more contagious variants of the coronavirus
  • People age 2 and older should wear masks in public settings and when around people who don’t live in their household.​
  • Masks offer some protection to you and are also meant to protect those around you, in case you are unknowingly infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • A mask is NOT a substitute for social distancing. Masks should still be worn in addition to staying at least 6 feet apart.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol after touching or removing your mask.
  • Masks may not be necessary when you are outside by yourself away from others, or with other people who live in your household. However, some localities may have mask mandates while out in public and these mandates should always be followed.
  • CDC is still studying the effectiveness of different types of masks and will update our recommendations as new scientific evidence becomes available.

Evidence for Effectiveness of Masks

Your mask helps protect those around you. COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets travel into the air when you cough, sneeze, talk, shout, or sing. These droplets can then land in the mouths or noses of people who are near you or they may breathe these droplets in.

Masks are a simple barrier to help prevent your respiratory droplets from reaching others. Studies show that masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth.

You should wear a mask, even if you do not feel sick. This is because several studies have found that people with COVID-19 who never develop symptoms (asymptomatic) and those who are not yet showing symptoms (pre-symptomatic) can still spread the virus to other people. The main function of wearing a mask is to protect those around you, in case you are infected but not showing symptoms.

It is especially important to wear a mask when you are unable to stay at least 6 feet apart from others since COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).

A cloth mask also offers some protection to you too. How well it protects you from breathing in the virus likely depends on the fabrics used and how your mask is made (e.g. the type of fabric, the number of layers of fabric, how well the mask fits). CDC is currently studying these factors.

The CDC is now urging Americans to wear two masks to protect against newer variants of the virus. There are two new methods the substantially boost fit and protection, according to updated CDC guidance. One is wearing a cloth mask over a disposable surgical mask. The second is improving the fit of a single surgical mask by knotting the ear loops and tucking in the sides close to the face to prevent air from leaking out around the edges and to form a closer fit.

Who should or should not wear a mask

Everyone 2 years of age and older should wear a mask in public settings and when they are around people who do not live in their household.

Wear a mask when caring for someone who is sick with COVID-19 (whether at home or in a non-healthcare setting). If you are sick with COVID-19 or think you may have COVID-19, wear a mask when you need to be around other people or animals, even in your own home.

CDC recognizes there are specific instances when wearing a mask may not be feasible. In these instances, consider adaptations and alternatives.

Masks should not be worn by:

  • Children younger than 2 years old
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing
  • Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance
  • Wearing masks may be difficult for some people with sensory, cognitive, or behavioral issues. If they are unable to wear a mask properly or cannot tolerate a mask, they should not wear one, and adaptations and alternatives should be considered

Types of masks

Some masks work better to help stop the spread of COVID-19 outside of healthcare settings. Until recently, the CDC recommended wearing cloth masks because of worries regarding the shortage of surgical masks and N95 respirator masks for health-care personnel. However, as supply has improved, they are providing information about the pros and cons of different masks.

Cloth masks can be made from a variety of fabrics, and many types of cloth masks are available. Look for: multiple layers of tightly woven, breathable fabric, nose wire, and the mask should block light when held up to a bright source. Do not wear: masks with exhalation valves or vents, or single layer masks made of thing fabric that don’t block light.

Disposable face masks are widely available. Look for: a description indicating multiple layers of non-woven material and nose wire. Do not wear: masks with gaps around the sides of the face or nose, wet, or dirty masks.

CDC does not recommend using face shields or goggles as a substitute for masks. Do NOT put a plastic face shield (or a mask) on newborns or infants.

 Sky Pittson, MD, November 18, 2020

Updated: February 10, 2021