Wearing a mask protects the wearer, and not just other people, from the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasized in an updated scientific brief issued Tuesday. And the protective benefits of masks are stronger the more people wear masks consistently and correctly, the agency says.
When the CDC first recommended that Americans wear cloth face coverings back in April, it cited evidence that the coronavirus could be transmitted by asymptomatic people who might not be aware of their infectiousness – a group estimated to account for more than 50% of transmissions. The agency said masks were intended to block virus-laden particles that might be emitted by an infected person.
In a report updated Tuesday, the CDC says that is still the primary intention of wearing masks. But it also cites growing evidence that even cloth masks can also reduce the amount of infectious droplets inhaled by the wearer.
“This messaging is key to increase adherence and interest in mask wearing. I am thrilled!” Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease physician with the University of California, San Francisco, said in a tweet Tuesday.
Ghandi argued in a recently published paper that wearing masks can reduce the severity of illness with COVID-19, even if the wearer does become infected.
As for which mask to choose? The CDC notes that when it comes to cloth masks, multiple layers made of higher thread counts do a better job of protecting the wearer than single layers of cloth with lower thread counts.
This article was originally featured in NPR, read more here.