Americans should be wearing a mask indoors whenever they’re outside their own home, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending for the first time as Covid-19 surges across the country.
The recommendation on mask-wearing in all indoor sites came in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report, which cited a high-level transmission of the virus as the ongoing holiday season and colder weather have driven more people indoors.
“Consistent and correct use of face masks is a public health strategy critical to reducing respiratory transmission” of Covid-19, the report stated, adding that this was particularly important “in light of estimates that approximately one half of new infections are transmitted by persons who have no symptoms.”
Face masks are most important in indoor spaces, the advisory said, and outdoors when six feet of separation can’t be maintained. Within households, face masks should also be used when a member is infected or has had recent potential Covid-19 exposure, according to the CDC guidance.
The advice comes after a period when U.S. President Donald Trump has played down the use of face masks, even making fun of President-elect Joe Biden’s use of them.
The guidance outlined several steps to fight the virus.
Along with masks and social distancing, the list includes: Avoiding non-essential indoor spaces; increasing testing; promptly identifying, quarantining and testing close contacts of persons with Covid-19; safeguarding persons most at risk for severe illness; supplying essential workers with adequate personal protective equipment; postponing travel; increasing room air ventilation; and, eventually, achieving widespread availability and high community coverage with effective vaccines.
“These actions,” the report said, “will provide a bridge to a future with wide availability and high community coverage of effective vaccines, when safe return to more everyday activities in a range of settings will be possible.”
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