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The CDC clarified its stance on various kinds of masks, acknowledging that the cloth masks frequently worn by Americans do not offer AS MUCH protection as surgical masks or respirators. The agency also recognized that some types of masks may be harder to wear consistently than others and that it is important to choose a mask that is comfortable and provides good protection. It also removed concerns related to supply shortages.
"Masking is a critical public health tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and it is important to remember that any mask is better than no mask," the CDC said in a statement. "To protect yourself and others from COVID-19, CDC continues to recommend that you wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently."
Loosely woven cloth masks provide less protection than well-fitted disposable surgical masks. And KN95s offer more protection, according to the CDC guidance.
The guideline also notes that "NIOSH-approved respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection." Such face coverings are even more important in high-risk situation such as when caring for someone who has COVID, traveling on a plane or using public transportation.
The Infectious Diseases Society of America voiced its support for the update in a Friday statement, noting that the Omicron variant's high transmissibility makes wearing the right mask even more important.
The organization said surgical N95 respirators, which the CDC said offers the highest level of protection, should be reserved for use in health care settings, but others should consider non-surgical N95 or KN95 masks.
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