The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conceded Friday that cloth masks are less effective than surgical or respirator masks as protection against COVID-19.
The updated guidelines reflect what many public health experts have pointed out throughout the recent increase in cases caused by the highly transmissible omicron variant.
“Loosely woven fabric products provide the least protection, thinly woven, layered products provide more protection, tight-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s provide even more protection, and tight-fitting NIOSH-approved respirators (including including N95s) provide the highest level of protection,” according to new guidelines released Friday.
But the CDC hasn’t gone so far as to say that cloth masks are inadequate against this strain of the virus — which some public health experts say is obvious given the transmission rates. Instead, the new guidelines state that respirators, such as N95 or KN95 masks, “may be considered in certain situations and by certain individuals when greater protection is needed or desired.” This can include scenarios involving infected patients or people with comorbidities, or when social distancing is not possible, the CDC said.
It’s a change from the start of the pandemic when the CDC, concerned about shortages of protective gear, urged people to spare those respirator masks for healthcare workers.
N95 and KN95 masks filter at least 95% of airborne particles, and recent data shows they can protect wearers from omicron-infected and unmasked people up to 2½, compared to just 20 30 minutes of protection against fabric or surgical masks.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is spearheading an effort to send every American three free N95 masks in light of this data.
“It’s an absolute outrage that in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, high-quality face masks aren’t more readily available to frontline workers, healthcare workers, and all Americans,” Sanders said Wednesday when introducing the Masks for All Act. .
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-California), who is co-sponsoring the House version of the bill, made a similar call for the legislation, which would earmark $5 billion for domestic manufacturing, supply and distribution of N95 masks.
“If we can afford a $778 billion defense budget, we can afford to send N95 masks to every American to keep people safe as Omicron cases rise,” he said. written in a press release.
The Huffington Gt