The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that it was planning to update its mask guidance to “best reflect the multiple options available to people and the different levels of protection they provide,” following weeks of health experts urging Americans to upgrade their masks to protect against the omicron COVID-19 variant.
The goal, according to a statement issued to ABC News on Wednesday, is for Americans to have “the greatest and most up-to-date information to choose the proper mask for them.”
The CDC’s action would be the first significant change to its mask advice since last July, when it advised all Americans to return to wearing masks after the delta strain proved so transmissible that even vaccinated persons may transmit the virus, according to a study.
Despite the fact that vaccinated persons are contagious for a shorter amount of time than unvaccinated and are less likely to be hospitalized, the CDC advised everyone to return to masks inside to avoid community cases from spreading.
However, since the emergence of omicron, health experts have advised care while using traditional cotton masks, and places such as Los Angeles and New York have already advised inhabitants to upgrade their masks.
Although one administration official claimed the goal was before the end of the week, the CDC did not indicate when it expected to update its online instructions.
The CDC was considering updating its guidelines, according to the Washington Post.
The agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, told reporters on Wednesday that the overarching suggestion will remain the same: “any mask is better than no mask,” and a mask should fit well.
Walensky told reporters that the best mask is “the one you can keep on all day long, tolerate in public indoor situations, and tolerate where you need to wear it.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, and President Joe Biden’s senior medical adviser, told CNN on Tuesday, “I recommend you acquire the finest quality mask that you can tolerate and that is accessible to you.”
One issue with promoting higher-grade masks is that they can be expensive, difficult to locate, and – in the case of surgical N95s – painful to wear.
Customers should also be aware of fake masks that aren’t as effective, according to the CDC.
Prior to omicron, Walensky fought a demand for the typical American to wear surgical N95 masks because the agency didn’t want to dissuade individuals from wearing any mask.
During his testimony on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Walensky did not wear an N95 mask.
She donned a disposable mask with a cotton mask on top “to guarantee a tight seal,” according to a spokeswoman.
That would be in line with the CDC’s existing advice, which says that Americans should wear two masks for added protection.
The Biden administration said it plans to help ramp up the manufacture of N95s to make them more available to Americans who desire one, in order to address the issue of restricted availability.
Dawn O’Connell, a senior official at the Department of Health and Human Services, said on Tuesday that the government aimed to sign a contract in the next month or two to choose a provider to create 140 million N95 masks every month.
In the strategic national stockpile, there are already 737 million N95 masks available for medical personnel.
White House COVID Coordinator Jeff Zients stated on Wednesday that the White House was seriously contemplating making “high-quality masks” available to all Americans, but he didn’t elaborate.