The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday updated its guidance on masks for the general public, now saying that people “may choose” to wear N95 and KN95 masks because they offer the best protection against Covid-19. The agency did not say that people should choose certain masks. It said that they recommend that people wear N masks because they offer the best protection against Covid-. “
Previously, the CDC did not recommend that the general population wear N95 masks or KN95s, a similar type of mask made in China, fearing that a run on those higher-quality masks would impact the supply in health care settings. According to the CDC, shortages are not a concern.
“When worn consistently and properly,” the agency wrote on its website, N95 respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, “provide the highest level of protection from particles, including the virus that causes Covid-19. “
Some public health experts said the guidance was long overdue and doesn’t go far enough. “We need to take this a step further and declare that this is what we should aim for,” Dr. Ranu Dhillon of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital said.
He said it should be easy for most people to find comfortable “N95-caliber” masks so they can wear them in high-risk indoor settings, such as crowded shops and hospitals. He stated that
“CDC should’ve been in front of it two years ago. “The science was clear 2 years ago. “
Tara Smith, a professor of epidemiology at the Kent State University College of Public Health in Ohio, said that while the CDC guidance is welcome, she has concerns about how people who need high-quality masks such as N95s would have access to them.
” Is there a way to distribute them? Especially for those who are unable or unwilling to pay. She wrote that she hoped this would happen earlier in the year but it was not. Although the recommendations are admirable, access to them, particularly for those most at risk, is not enough. “
On Thursday, President Joe Biden said his administration is planning to make “high-quality” masks available to the public at no charge, but declined to offer details.
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The CDC said in its updated guidance that it “continues to recommend that you wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently. A mask should be close to the skin without gaps and comfortable enough to be worn for extended periods of time, according to the CDC.
The agency did, however, offer a ranking of commonly used face coverings in order of highest to lowest protection, with N95s approved by NIOSH and KN95s at the top.
Disposable surgical masks were next on the list, however the CDC advised making sure they fit properly. The agency now recommends double masks in this scenario: Wearing a cloth mask over a disposable surgical mask can help it fit more snugly against the face.
“Loosely woven products offer the most protection,” said the CDC. Cloth masks should include multiple layers of tightly woven fabric. When held up to bright light sources, the fabric should block light.
Erika Edwards is a health and medical news writer and reporter for NBC News and “TODAY. “
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