CDC Revisits Its Guidelines On Who Should Wear Protective Masks

Health officials have said healthy people should not wear masks, but they're reportedly reviewing that guidance.
Posted at 10:25 PM, Mar 31, 2020

The CDC is considering changing its guidelines on who should wear protective face masks.

Right now, the CDC recommends people only wear masks if they're sick but can't avoid other people, or if they're healthy but caring for others who are sick. 

But there's worry that changes would only worsen an ongoing shortage of masks, including medical-grade N95 masks, and keep health care workers from getting them.

"You don't want to take masks away from the health care providers who are in a real and present danger of getting infected," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top expert on infectious diseases. "That would be the worst thing we do. If we have them covered, then you could look back and say maybe we need to broaden this."

The CDC and the World Health Organization have both previously said healthy people don't need to wear masks. 

But during an interview with NPR on Monday, the director of the CDC said new data shows "significant" COVID-19 transmission by people who have no symptoms — meaning people may not even know that they or those around them are sick.

But there's debate about whether wearing a mask would actually protect anybody. There's still no evidence that masks alone can significantly reduce a healthy person's chances of getting sick. 

Newsy previously spoke to a number of experts who believe healthy people should not wear masks. Some worry mandating masks could make people feel safer — which could make them less likely to wash their hands or participate in social distancing. People frequently touching their mask could even have a greater risk of getting sick. 

Also, keep in mind: Masks are only supposed to be used once. Based on the latest U.S. population data, the country would need almost 10 billion masks a month for every American to wear one mask a day. And we don't have nearly that many.

For now, health officials say hand washing and social distancing are still the best ways to prevent yourself from getting sick. 

Contains footage from CNN