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CDC updates mask guidelines, encouraging Americans to consider N95 masks for better protection against coronavirus

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CDC updates mask guidelines, encouraging Americans to consider N95 masks for better protection against coronavirus

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On Friday, US health officials encouraged more Americans to wear the type of N95 or KN95 masks used by health workers to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

These types of masks are considered better for filtering air. But they were previously rare, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials had said they should be prioritized for healthcare workers.

In updated guidance released Friday afternoon, CDC officials removed concerns about supply shortages and said more clearly that properly fitted N95 and KN95 masks provide the best protection.

However, agency officials noted that some masks are harder to tolerate than others and urged people to choose well-fitting masks that they will wear consistently.

“Our main message continues to be that any mask is better than no mask,” Kristen Nordlund, a CDC spokeswoman, said in a statement.

MORE | Emerging evidence that cloth masks are not as effective as surgical masks against COVID

The CDC has evolved its mask guidelines throughout the pandemic.

In its latest update, in September, CDC officials became more encouraging for disposable N95 masks, saying they could be used in some situations if supplies were available. Examples included being in close proximity to large numbers of people for long periods of time on a train, bus or plane; caring for a person in poor health; or be more likely to contract a serious illness.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced that his administration plans to make “high quality masks” available free of charge, including N95s. He said more details would come next week. The federal government has a stockpile of more than 750 million N95 masks, the White House said.

The latest CDC guidelines indicate that there is a special category of “N95 surgical” masks, specifically designed for protection against blood spatter and other hazards in the operating room. These are generally not available for sale to the public and should continue to be restricted to healthcare workers, the agency said.

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CDC updates mask guidelines, encouraging Americans to consider N95 masks for better protection against coronavirus

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