CDC Now Urges 'Universal' Indoor Mask Use When Not At Home

by Kristine Cannon

This is the first time the CDC has urged universal mask use indoors

For the first time, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention is recommending what they call “universal mask use” indoors when not at home. The new guidance was announced Friday in the CDC’s weekly Morbidity and Mortality report, as a response to the country’s record-breaking, high level of COVID-19 transmission.

“COVID-19 pandemic control requires a multipronged application of evidence-based strategies while improving health equity: universal face mask use, physical distancing, avoiding nonessential indoor spaces, increasing testing, prompt quarantine of exposed persons, safeguarding those at increased risk for severe illness or death, protecting essential workers, postponing travel, enhancing ventilation and hand hygiene, and achieving widespread COVID-19 vaccination coverage,” the CDC’s report states.

The report also recommends that officials on the state and local level “issue policies or directives mandating universal use of face masks in indoor (nonhousehold) settings,” as well as “plan for provision of face masks for specific populations if needed.” The CDC also recommends avoiding nonessential indoor spaces and crowded outdoor spaces, as well as “increasing testing to rapidly identify and isolate infected persons.”

Mask use indoors is especially important now, as colder weather and the holiday season has pushed Americans inside, for everyone to maintain “consistent and correct” use of face masks to help prevent the spread of the virus.

“Compelling evidence now supports the benefits of cloth face masks for both source control (to protect others) and, to a lesser extent, protection of the wearer,” states the report, which cites research that suggests about 50 percent of transmission of COVID-19 is spread through asymptomatic people. “Face mask use is most important in indoor spaces and outdoors when physical distance of ≥6 feet cannot be maintained.”

The CDC report comes at a time of alarmingly high confirmed cases and deaths. According to The Hill, new cases top 200,000 per day as we head into winter.

The CDC also recently shortened the quarantine period to ten days for those showing no symptoms, and for those with a negative test and also showing no symptoms, seven days. And earlier this week, a White House task force report warned people over 65 and those with underlying conditions to limit leaving home by getting groceries and medications delivered.

As of Friday, Johns Hopkins University reports steadily increasing new cases (currently nearly 14.3 million in the U.S. alone) and deaths (more than 277K).

“Full implementation of and adherence to these strategies will save lives,” the report states. “As communities respond to high levels of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, these strategies will also provide the necessary bridge to a future with wide availability and high levels of coverage with effective vaccines, and thereby a safe return to more everyday activities in a range of settings.”

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.