The CDC is now recommending “universal mask use” both indoors and outdoors whenever someone is not at their own home. This is the first time the agency has included indoor spaces in their recommendations for universal mask wearing.
It comes as coronavirus cases in the U.S. continue to surge past 14 million positive cases and deaths climb above 277,000, with many states only beginning to see a potential second spike from Thanksgiving celebrations.
In the CDC’s weekly report, they said with more time spent indoors with the colder weather, the ongoing holiday season and silent spread of the disease with about 50 percent of transmission happening from asymptomatic people, “the United States has entered a phase of high-level transmission where a multipronged approach to implementing all evidence-based public health strategies at both the individual and community levels is essential.”
These include universal mask use, physical distancing, avoiding nonessential indoor spaces, increased testing, prompt quarantine, enhanced ventilation, and widespread vaccination coverage. The agency stresses “no single strategy can control the pandemic,” and all of these recommendations will be needed to break transmission chains.
The CDC warns that indoor spaces and crowded outdoor spaces, especially where distancing is not maintained or consistent use of face masks is not possible, i.e. like when eating or drinking, “have been identified as particularly high-risk scenarios.”
“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,” the CDC guidelines now read. “Face mask use is most important in indoor spaces and outdoors when physical distance of ≥6 feet cannot be maintained. Within households, face masks should be used when a member of the household is infected or has had recent potential COVID-19 exposure.”
Any indoor spaces should also have good ventilation, the CDC says. "For indoor settings, increased room air ventilation can decrease the concentration of small droplets and particles carrying infectious virus suspended in the air and, thereby, presumably decrease the risk for transmission."
The World Health Organization recently updated their guidelines that everyone 12 and older should wear a mask outside, inside and even inside people’s own homes if they are poorly ventilated. They recommended that children ages 6-to-11 should wear a mask based on a “risk-based approach.”
Earlier this week, the CDC said they recommend against traveling this holiday season to slow the spread of the coronavirus. They made a similar plea before Thanksgiving, however the TSA reported record-high airport screenings since the pandemic started.