© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People wait in line to be tested for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Tower Theater in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S. January 11, 2022. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
By David Shepardson and Lisa Baertlein
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday revised its guidance for Americans on wearing masks to protect against COVID-19, recommending that they don "the best protective mask possible" while they are not advocate for national use of N95 respirators.
The CDC, an agency critics have accused critics of offering shifting and confusing guidance amid the pandemic, clarified on its website that "people can choose respirators like the N95 and KN95, including addressing concerns related to N95 supply shortages."
Americans should "wear the best possible protective mask that fits well and that you wear consistently," the CDC added.
The United States leads the world in COVID-19 deaths — around 850,000 — despite battling a spate of cases with the fast-spreading Omicron variant coronavirus. To make matters worse, some Americans refuse to be vaccinated.
President Joe Biden said Thursday the federal government plans to provide Americans with "quality masks" for free. In a further move, the White House said on Friday the government will begin shipping 500 million COVID-19 tests to Americans for free later this month.
The CDC said it wants to encourage Americans to wear masks instead of urging them to wear the highest quality face shield, but also specifically said respirators offer the best protection. It was said that "loosely woven fabric products offer the least protection".
"Masking is an important public health tool to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and it's important to remember that any mask is better than no mask," the CDC added.
The CDC said the revised recommendations "reflect the science of masking, including what we've learned over the past two years" since the pandemic began.
Recently, as cases increase, more Americans have opted for higher-quality protection.
The United States is seeing about 1,800 COVID-19 deaths and 780,000 new infections every day — the most in the world — and record numbers of hospitalized patients.
According to an analysis by Reuters, the Omicron-related surge appears to be slowing in areas that were hit first, including states in the Northeast and South. In the western states, the number of new cases rose by 89% in the past week compared to the previous week.
The CDC announced last May that fully vaccinated people could remove their face coverings as COVID-19 cases were then declining. But in July, the CDC said fully vaccinated people should wear masks in indoor public places in regions where COVID-19 was spreading rapidly. The CDC said this week that 99.5% of US counties are currently covered by the mask recommendation.
Some US N95 manufacturers told Reuters they had achieved record N95 sales after Anthony Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, recommended on CNN that Americans "get the highest quality mask that you can tolerate and that is available to you." “.
N95 masks, worn properly, filter out at least 95% of fine dust particles in the air and prevent anything larger than 0.3 microns from penetrating.
Los Angeles County, the nation's most populous country, will on Monday require some employers to provide "medical-grade" masks — surgical masks, KF94, to workers at high risk of contracting COVID-19 infection on the job KN95 or N95 – provide.
Masks remain polarizing. Biden, a Democrat, again this week urged people to wear masks, noting that about a third of Americans say they don't wear a mask at all. Many republican states do not have a mask requirement. Some Democratic states like California have reinstated indoor mask requirements.
Blair Childs, an executive at Premier Inc, a corporate procurement company for hospitals, expressed concern about legislation backed by US Senator Bernie Sanders that would send a box of three N95 masks to every person in the country. Childs said such proposals "could disrupt the healthcare supply chain."
Days after taking office in January 2020, Biden imposed mask requirements on planes, trains and public transport, as well as at airports and other transportation hubs – measures that his predecessor Donald Trump opposed. Biden last month extended transit mask requirements through March 18. The CDC said Friday that N95 masks could be considered for use in places like transit "where greater protection is needed or desired."