U.S. CDC urges Americans to wear ‘most protective mask you can’

People line up to be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Tower Theater in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S., January 11, 2022. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

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WASHINGTON, Jan 14 (Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday revised its guidance for Americans on wearing masks to protect against COVID-19, recommending wearing “the mask as soon as possible”. as protective as possible” while stopping short of advocating the nationwide use of N95 respirators.

The CDC, an agency that critics have accused of offering shifting and confusing advice amid the pandemic, clarified on its website “that people can choose respirators such as N95s and KN95s, including removing concerns over supply shortages for N95s”.

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

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The United States leads the world in COVID-19 deaths – around 850,000 – even as it battles a surge of cases involving the fast-spreading variant of the Omicron coronavirus. Complicating matters is the refusal of some Americans to get vaccinated.

President Joe Biden said Thursday that the federal government plans to make “high-quality masks” available to Americans free of charge. In another step, the White House said Friday that the government would begin shipping 500 million free COVID-19 tests to Americans later this month.

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

“Masking is an essential 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 on masking, including what we’ve learned over the past two years,” since the pandemic began.

More Americans have recently opted for next-level protection amid soaring cases.

The United States is seeing around 1,800 COVID-19 deaths and 780,000 new infections per day – the most in the world – as well as record levels of hospitalized patients.

The Omicron-related surge appears to be slowing in areas that were hit first, including northeastern and southern states, according to a Reuters analysis. In western states, the number of new cases jumped 89% last week compared to the previous week.

The CDC last May announced that fully vaccinated people could get rid of their masks because COVID-19 cases were then on the decline. But in July, the CDC said fully vaccinated people should wear masks in indoor public places in areas 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 U.S. N95 makers told Reuters they saw record N95 sales after Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, recommended on CNN that Americans “get the highest quality mask that you can tolerate and who is at your disposal”.

N95 masks worn correctly will filter out at least 95% of particles in the air, preventing anything larger than 0.3 microns from getting through.

Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous, will on Monday require certain employers to provide “medical-grade” masks — surgical, KF94, KN95 or N95 masks — to workers at high risk of contracting COVID-19 infection at work .

The masks remain polarizing. Biden, a Democrat, again this week urged people to wear masks and noted that about a third of Americans say they don’t wear a mask at all. Many Republican-leaning states have no mask requirements. Some Democratic-ruled states like California have reimposed indoor mask mandates.

Blair Childs, an executive at Premier Inc (PINC.O), a group buying company for hospitals, expressed concern over legislation backed by US Senator Bernie Sanders that would send every person in the country a pack of three N95 masks. Childs said such proposals could “disrupt the healthcare supply chain.”

Days after taking office in January 2020, Biden imposed mask requirements on planes, trains, and public transit as well as at airports and other transit hubs — actions his predecessor Donald Trump refused to back down. take. Last month, Biden extended transit mask requirements until March 18. The CDC said Friday that N95 masks could be considered for use in places like transit “when greater protection is needed or desired.”

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Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Will Dunham, David Gregorio and Matthew Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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