CDC says cloth masks offer more COVID-19 protection for wearer than previously thought

CDC says cloth masks offer more COVID-19 protection for wearer than previously though
Posted at 8:03 PM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-20 08:53:08-05

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance that recent studies have indicated that cloth masks offer more protection against the coronavirus than previously thought.

Previous guidance suggested that masks were best used for preventing the spread of the virus. The CDC now believes that masks are effective for both stopping the spread and reception of the virus.

The CDC said on Tuesday that multi-layer cloth masks can both block up to 50 to 70% of fine droplets and particles and limit the forward spread of those that are not captured. Overall, cloth masks offer up to 80% blockage in human experiments.

The CDC’s analysis found that cloth masks offer comparable protection as surgical masks.

“Studies demonstrate that cloth mask materials can also reduce wearers’ exposure to infectious droplets through filtration, including filtration of fine droplets and particles less than 10 microns,” the CDC’s guidance said. “The relative filtration effectiveness of various masks has varied widely across studies, in large part due to variation in experimental design and particle sizes analyzed. Multiple layers of cloth with higher thread counts have demonstrated superior performance compared to single layers of cloth with lower thread counts, in some cases filtering nearly 50% of fine particles less than 1 micron.”

The guidance says that mandatory mask wearing can help prevent the need to implement economic shutdowns.

“Adopting universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns, especially if combined with other non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, hand hygiene, and adequate ventilation,” the CDC said.

In an interview with Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that wearing masks is “two-way street.”

"Recent data has now shown that as a matter of fact, there's also the added benefit to protect you from droplets and virus that's coming your way," Fauci said Tuesday on MSNBC."

“You protect others," he added. "Their masks protect you. And your mask also protects you."

In a separate interview on Tuesday, Fauci said that shut downs can be avoided.

“We are not talking about shutting down,” Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “There is always that misunderstanding when we talk about public health measures. We are not talking about shutting down. We are talking about the four or five things I talk about all the time, wearing mask universally, keeping a distance, avoiding congregate settings indoors over outdoors and washing your hands.”

Editor's note: A previous version of this story said "masks were best used for spreading the virus" when it should have said "masks were best used for preventing the spread of the virus." That has since been corrected.