Labor & Employment Law Daily New CDC guidance includes universal mask wearing indoors unless at home
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Tuesday, December 8, 2020

New CDC guidance includes universal mask wearing indoors unless at home

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

According to the CDC, the consistent and correct use of face masks is a public health strategy critical to reducing respiratory transmission of COVID-19.

On December 4, the CDC strengthened its recommendations for controlling the COVID-19 pandemic to include universal use of facemasks indoors, unless the person is at home and absent recent exposure. The updated guidance presumably applies to employers as well as everyone else. As a result, if they have not already done so, employers should consider incorporating mandatory face coverings into their workplace pandemic safety protocols.

Safety practices. Summarizing its updated strategy, the CDC said that the “COVID-19 pandemic control requires a multipronged application of evidence-based strategies while improving health equity.” This includes:

  • 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.

Face masks. According to the CDC, the consistent and correct use of face masks is a public health strategy critical to reducing respiratory transmission of COVID-19, especially in light of estimates indicating that about half of new infections are transmitted by persons who have no symptoms. “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 wrote.

In an effort preserve the supply of N95 respirators for health care workers and other medical first responders, the CDC is recommending nonvalved, multilayer cloth masks or nonmedical disposable masks for community use. Using a face mask is most important in indoor spaces and outdoors when physical distancing of at least six feet cannot be maintained.

At home, face masks should be used when a member of the household is infected or has had recent potential COVID-19 exposure, such as known close contact or potential exposure related to occupation, crowded public settings, travel, or nonhousehold members in the house.

The CDC also said that a community-level plan for distribution of face masks to specific populations, such as those who might experience barriers to access, should be developed.

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