The CDC made this important change to its mask guidelines

The CDC hasn’t exactly been firm in its mask recommendations — and much of that has come down to the fact that the coronavirus is a disease that’s never been seen before. 

But as COVID-19 case numbers and deaths increase across the country, according to The Washington Post, the CDC has finally taken the step to say that using masks actually protects its wearers from contracting the coronavirus, per a scientific paper released on the CDC’s website. The government agency reported that studies can reduce the wearer’s exposure to COVID-19, and that cloth masks made with higher thread counts worked more effectively than single layer cloth masks with lower thread counts. It also pointed out that cloth masks were effective because they protected against infected droplets. 

The CDC also provided a strong argument in favor of a community mask mandate by providing examples of places where one was in place. The CDC noted: “Each analysis demonstrated that, following directives from organizational and political leadership for universal masking, new infections fell significantly. Two of these studies and an additional analysis of data from 200 countries that included the U.S. also demonstrated reductions in mortality.” More importantly, “An economic analysis using U.S. data found that, given these effects, increasing universal masking by 15 [percent] could prevent the need for lockdowns and reduce associated losses of up to $1 trillion or about 5 [percent] of gross domestic product.”

Here's why the new CDC mask guidelines are vital

Public health experts like the University of California, San Francisco, disease expert Monica Gandhi are in support of the new guidelines. “That matters for public-health messaging, because we don’t have people yet who are completely convinced about the benefits of masking until they see the CDC say that it also protects you and your family,” Gandhi tells The New York Times. “I would encourage every American to adhere to masking guidelines now that we hear more clearly today that this will protect you and others. We cannot afford more lockdowns, but we can do our part to stop Covid-19 transmission and disease.”

The CDC’s new mask recommendation also comes as the United States continues to register new highs in the number of cases and deaths. As of Tuesday afternoon, The New York Times says more than 10.26 million people in the country have tested positive, and nearly 240,000 people have died. Cases are also spiking across Europe, where some countries have reimposed strict measures including shutdowns across certain areas (via Financial Times). 

While there are very promising signs that a vaccine being developed by drug company Pfizer could work, it is still under trial. There are still questions over how much protection it offers, who it protects, and for how long that protection lasts (via Nature).

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