Coronavirus spread reduced by Americans' increased use of face masks: CDC

Survey found percentage of U.S. adults wearing face masks increased to more than 76% from April to May

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling on Americans to wear facial coverings following new findings that increased mask use has been effective in helping to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.

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“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”

In an editorial published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the CDC reviewed and affirmed new scientific data revealing that Americans' increased use of facial coverings has reduced the spread of COVID-19, particularly when used universally within communities.

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"[A] face covering is not needed all the time," CDC researchers wrote. "It is probably safe for individuals and safe for others to drive alone or to walk or jog alone on an uncrowded route without a face covering. But when individuals choose to go out or must be close to others in public, a cloth face covering can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 from asymptomatic individuals or others. With cloth face coverings, personal protection is derived from their use by all members of the community."

case study published by the CDC tracked two Springfield, Missouri, hairstylists who were both infected and displaying symptoms of COVID-19.

According to researchers, one of the stylists developed symptoms May 12 and continued to work until May 20 when they received a positive COVID-19 test result. In that time, the infected person passed the virus onto another stylist who also continued to work until May 20 despite developing symptoms on May 15.

The two stylists always wore either a “double-layered cotton face covering” or a surgical mask when interacting with clients, the researchers added.

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The study found that citywide orders requiring businesses to operate at 25 percent capacity along with the salon's policy requiring facial coverings for all employees and patrons helped prevent virus transmission between the hairstylists and their 139 clients.

“A policy mandating the use of face coverings was likely a contributing factor in preventing transmission of SARS-CoV-2 during the close-contact interactions between stylists and clients in salon A,” the researchers wrote. “Broader implementation of masking policies could mitigate the spread of infection in the general population.”

Overall, 67 clients agreed to be tested while 72 refused. Of the total 139 clients, 104 were interviewed by the Greene County Health Department about whether they had developed symptoms. About 84 of the 104 reached said they did not develop symptoms. For those who did report previous symptoms, none reported testing for or a diagnosis of COVID-19.

Researchers said the study "support[s] the use of face coverings in places open to the public, especially when social distancing is not possible, to reduce spread of SARS-CoV-2.”

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According to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), an internet survey with a national sample of 503 adults conducted from April 7–9 found that roughly 62 percent of respondents said they would follow the newly announced recommendations to wear a face mask when outside their home. A second survey from May 11-13 found that the percentage of adults endorsing face mask wearing increased to more than 76 percent.

The increase in approval was largest among White, non-Hispanic adults, from 54 percent to 75 percent, while approval among Black, non-Hispanic adults went up from 74 percent to 82 percent and remained stable among Hispanic and Latino adults at 76 percent and 77 percent. There was also a large increase in face mask approval among respondents in the Midwest, from 44 percent to 74 percent. Approval of facial coverings was the greatest in the Northeast, going from 77 percent to 87 percent.

Additional data showed that immediately after the White House Coronavirus Task Force and CDC advised Americans to wear cloth face coverings when leaving home, the proportion of U.S. adults who chose to do so significantly increased, with three in four reporting they had adopted the recommendation.

People wear masks while walking on Sunset Boulevard, Thursday, July 2, 2020, in West Hollywood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

According to the latest update from Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 3.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases, more than 1 million people who have recovered, and more than 136,000 deaths in the United States.

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