COVID-19 face mask CDC guidance update based on real world case studies

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The CDC's updated guidance on face masks, saying they protect both the wearer and the people around them, is the result of several real world case studies over the past few months.

The CDC said in a statement Tuesday that "adopting universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns." But there's more to the guidance than that.

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"What they revealed is masks can also help reduce the inhalation of droplets by the wearer, and in fact they went on to say that cloth masks, particularly multiple layers of cloth masks, are as effective as surgical and medical grade masks for doing just that," said Karen Ayala, DuPage County Health Department.

Among the seven studies cited by the agency was that of a hair salon in Springfield, Mo., were in May two COVID-19 symptomatic stylists interacted for an average of 15 minutes with 139 clients over an eight day period. None of the 67 clients who consented to be interviewed and tested were infected. All were masked during their interactions.

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Dr. Emily Landon, University of Chicago Medicine's Executive Medical Director for Infection Prevention and Control, once again emphasized that masks work when speaking during one of Gov. JB Pritkzer's daily press briefings in late October/

"Every single study now shows that masks reduce risk," Landon said. "Common sense says that masks reduce risk. Healthcare workers would all get COVID when they were caring for patients if masks didn't prevent infection, and studies of healthcare worker antibodies show that they have had COVID only slightly more than the regular population, despite having very close contact with patients who have COVID." "

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"Part of what I think we're hoping here is that if people shift the way they're looking, as opposed to thinking I'm wearing a mask 'cause if I'm sick, I'm protecting someone else, but I'm not sick so I don't have to worry about it, they'll start thinking wow, this is actually going to help me as well," said Dr. Nimmi Rajagopal, Cook County Health.

With coronavirus cases soaring across the country and Americans being driven indoors by cooler temperatures and the upcoming holiday season, it is the hope of local health officials that this updated guidance motivates those who have so far resisted wearing masks on a regular basis to do so.

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"We compared counties. One has a masking requirement, the neighboring one does not. We see that the transmission of this virus goes down. We also see that the acuity of illness goes down, and both of those are vitally important," said Ayala.

And, of course, it's not just wearing masks around others that is important. Health officials are also reminding the public of the two other W's: Wash your hands and watch your distance.
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