The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday deviated from their preliminary recommendations on the use of masks, stating that the use of masks will benefit wearers. This is a step beyond the previous statement that wearing masks would only protect those around them.
“Experimental and epidemiological data support masking the community to reduce the spread of the virus,” said the CDC in a document that lists scientific evidence for the use of masks. “The individual benefit increases with the increasing use of community masks,” it says.
The unambiguous statements are a departure from the agency’s previous language, which indicated that “the latest science could convince Americans” to wear masks and that the use of masks could prevent one infected person from spreading the virus on others transferred to. “The main protection given to individuals through masking occurs when others in their communities also wear face-coverings,” it said.
The agency also made an economic case: increasing the proportion of people wearing masks by 15 percent could eliminate the need for lockdowns and reduce associated losses of up to $ 1 trillion, or about 5 percent of GDP.
The new document listed several studies that “confirmed the utility of universal masking,” as well as some observational studies that demonstrated its usefulness, including an example of two masked hair stylists who had symptoms but did not transmit the virus to one of their 67 masked customers who were later contacted. The document also referred to a study of 124 Beijing households in which the use of masks significantly reduced transmission of the virus and an outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt in which face covering appeared to reduce the risk of infection by 70 percent.
Experts were enthusiastic about the CDC’s change in attitude and, in particular, the emphasis on face coverings that protect wearers.
“This is important to public health as we don’t have people fully convinced of the benefits of masking until they see the CDC say it protects you and your family too,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an Infectious Disease Expert at the University of California at San Francisco.
“I would encourage any American to adhere to masking guidelines now that we are hearing more clearly today that it will protect you and others,” said Dr. Gandhi. “We can’t afford any more bans, but we can do our part to stop the transmission and disease of Covid-19.”