The CDC Has Recommended We All Wear Masks - Here's Why

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: April 10, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently updated its guidance regarding face masks in light of the sharp increase in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. New studies have found that many individuals carry COVID-19 and don’t have any symptoms. These “asymptomatic” carriers can transmit the virus to others before showing any signs of infection.

As a result, the CDC now recommends Americans wear a cloth face mask in public. The recommendation to wear a nonmedical “basic cloth or fabric mask” is voluntary. But this new guidance will likely be confusing for some, as this is an update on the CDC’s earlier guidelines that stated that most healthy people do not need to wear a mask.

While maintaining 6-foot social distancing and frequent handwashing should still be practiced, a mask will offer some protection from coughs and sneezes, which may carry the virus. A single sneeze can produce up to 10,000 tiny droplets, and the virus can remain in small droplets for hours.

The CDC also states that wearing a mask not only means you are protecting yourself but safeguarding those around you. Because of this, some cities, including New York and Los Angeles, have instructed residents to wear face coverings and masks when in public.

But there’s no need for a medical-grade mask or N-95 respirator, and those are critical supplies meant for hospitals and medical workers. A simple scarf, bandanna, or homemade cloth mask will offer adequate protection for most people.

There is a right way and a wrong way to wear a mask. To wear a mask properly, first, make sure you wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before you pick up the mask. Be sure you cover your mouth and nose and check to see that there are no gaps between your face and the mask. Avoid touching or adjusting the mask while wearing it, since it could become contaminated that way. As soon as the mask becomes damp, you need to take it off. To remove the mask, grasp it from behind. It is important not to touch the front of the mask, which may be contaminated. Then, wash or dispose of the mask in a closed trash bin. Be sure to wash your hands immediately after use.

Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of its publication. However, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is ever-evolving. We are working to keep our stories up-to-date as changes occur, but we also encourage everyone to check news and recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and their local authorities.