Wearing a Mask Can Protect Against Coronavirus Disease 2019 for the Wearer as Well as Others, The CDC Says | Infectious Diseases | JAMA Health Forum | JAMA Network
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Wearing a Mask Can Protect Against Coronavirus Disease 2019 for the Wearer as Well as Others, The CDC Says

  • 1Consulting Editor, JAMA Health Forum and JAMA

People who wear multilayer cloth masks protect not only the people they encounter from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) but also themselves, according to an updated scientific brief from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Previous recommendations from the CDC advising people to wear cloth masks stressed evidence that the practice helps with source control—that is, preventing people infected with SARS-CoV-2, including those without symptoms, from spreading the virus to others. Individuals with infections who are presymptomatic or asymptomatic are estimated to be the source of more than half of SARS-CoV-2 transmissions, the agency has noted.

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    2 Comments for this article
    Two Additional Considerations
    DL Kirkwood | Retired RN, author
    There are two additional means to prevent COVID, which may be as important as wearing the recommended layered masks.

    The first is a lack of multi-layered masks for consumer purchase. Initially, an all cotton mask was recommended, yet all that was and still is available to purchase are cotton/poly blend (if you're lucky) or purely synthetic.

    Second, a friend who has been housebound since March was diagnosed last week with Covid. Despite separate rooms, distancing with their roommate, and masks, there is only one risk left: the never-ending, proper sanitization of ones own surroundings. Along with masks
    and distance we must not stop teaching the public how to properly clean their environments.

    Last but certainly not least, we have our own homes which we tend to feel safe in, yet may be more threatening to us overall because we may feel safe in it and slack off.

    Lay people may not understand the hows and whys of infection control. This is one area healthcare professionals must not slack off on as well.
    Masks for COVID
    Ray Nagashima | Retired
    Thank you for posting this recommendation, given the often misquoted recent paper in Ann Int Med by Bundgaard, et al, a study limited by patient self-reporting of COVID test results and only 46% of mask wearers reporting they wore masks as recommended (1). Most importantly, the Authors state, " The findings, however, should not be used to conclude that a recommendation for everyone to wear masks in the community would not be effective in reducing SARS-CoV-2 infections, because the trial did not test the role of masks in source control of SARS-CoV-2 infection."

    If rationing of ICU beds
    and ventilators becomes an issue, perhaps the issue of compliance with mask wearing should become the final question in determining who gets the resources and who does not. Maybe that would motivate people to wear them.


    1.  Ann Intern Med. 2020. doi:10.7326/M20-681