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CDC now says masks protect both the wearers and those around them from COVID-19

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Posted at 4:08 PM, Nov 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-11 16:08:02-05

The CDC now says that masks can help protect both the person who wears a mask, as well as those around them from getting infected with the coronavirus.

Chief Health Editor Dr. Partha Nandi explains why the CDC has expanded its stance on masks.

Dr. Nandi:

I’ve always said, “my mask protects you, and your mask protects me." But now you’ll be hearing me say that my mask will help protect both you and me. You know that I’ve been a strong advocate for mask use, mainly because I see first-hand how it protects me and my patients at my practice. So, I am happy to see that the CDC has updated its guidance. Now, why did they do this? Well, because of science. Studies have shown that cloth masks can reduce exposure.

They help by filtering out respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets are the main way that the virus is spread. It happens when folks talk, cough, sneeze, sing, or even breathe. So masks can stop exhaled droplets from spreading out into the air. And it also works in reverse. Masks can stop a person from inhaling exhaled droplets that might be in the air.

The CDC sites several human studies where masks made a difference. Here are a couple I’d like to share. The first concerns an outbreak that happened aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier. A study found that face coverings reduced the risk of getting infected by 70%. That is amazing because the enlisted men and women aboard often work and live in close environments. Now, another investigation looked at two symptomatically ill hairstylists. And of the 67 customers that were interviewed and tested, none of them had caught the virus from the hairstylists. And they all had worn masks.

Cloth masks can effectively block most large droplets roughly the size of 20-30 microns or larger. And they can also stop fine droplets and particles that are 10 microns or smaller. In fact, multi-layer cloth masks have shown that they can block between 50 to 70% of fine droplets and particles, which is fabulous.

Higher thread counts around 180 are much better than lower thread counts. Now, if you’re not sure if your mask is tightly woven, hold it up to the light. You don’t want to easily see through it or see individual fibers outlined in the cloth material. Remember, the reason why we’re wearing masks is not that we’re sick. It’s because more than 50% of transmissions come from people who have no symptoms. And don’t know they’re carrying the virus.

So please, let’s take mask-wearing seriously. Our numbers are skyrocketing here in Michigan. Not only are daily case numbers up, but hospitalizations have taken a sharp turn and our deaths are on the rise as well. We need to turn these numbers around ASAP.