The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is encouraging all Americans — even people who feel healthy — to wear cloth face masks or homemade face coverings in public when 6-feet social distancing is difficult to maintain in an effort to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. The new guidance, announced Friday, is a reversal from previous CDC recommendations that face masks need to be worn only by people who are sick with COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, or by those caring for someone who is sick.
"From recent studies we know that the transmission from individuals without symptoms is playing a more significant role in the spread of the virus than previously understood,” President Donald Trump said in a news briefing Friday. “So in light of these studies, the CDC is advising the use of nonmedical cloth face coverings as an additional voluntary public health measure.”
The masks the CDC is recommending can be purchased online or made at home, said Trump, who stressed that the new recommendations are voluntary. The CDC's website has information on how to make face coverings from everyday household items. Health officials stress that N95 respirator masks and surgical masks should be reserved for frontline health care workers.
Cloth masks do not provide the same level of protection as medical-grade masks, which, if worn properly, can block large and small droplets from coughs and sneezes. But they can offer some germ-blocking benefits, says Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science in the Department of Environmental Health and director of the Healthy Buildings Program at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.