New CDC guidance states that masks also protect the wearer

In the ever changing world of virus control, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has once again pivoted from its previous guidance indicating that mask wearing protected others from infection. Now recent CDC guidance provides that mask wearing also protects the wearer from COVID-19 infection. The guidance provides in pertinent part:

Experimental and epidemiological data support community masking to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2. The prevention benefit of masking is derived from the combination of source control and personal protection for the mask wearer. The relationship between source control and personal protection is likely complementary and possibly synergistic, so that individual benefit increases with increasing community mask use. Further research is needed to expand the evidence base for the protective effect of cloth masks and in particular to identify the combinations of materials that maximize both their blocking and filtering effectiveness, as well as fit, comfort, durability, and consumer appeal. Adopting universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns, especially if combined with other non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, hand hygiene, and adequate ventilation.

Scientific Brief: Community Use of Cloth Masks to Control the Spread of SARS-CoV-2

The change in policy was based on the data of seven studies. The studies found that “Each analysis (the seven studies) demonstrated that, following directives from organizational and political leadership for universal masking, new infections fell significantly.” The CDC did not state whether the studies took into account that as mask wearing increased the natural progression of the infection period was decreasing at the same time.

This updated guidance comes at a time when states and localities are reissuing mask wearing requirements and implementing new enforcement efforts in response to surging cases across the country. Employers should review the new CDC guidance along with applicable government orders and remain vigilant in requiring mask wearing. 

The McDonald Hopkins Labor and Employment Response Team will continue to monitor developments and provide updates on further employment law issues as they arise related to the COVID-19 crisis.

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