Due to the high transmissibility and infection rates of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, there was talk that the CDC might change its guidance, recommending that all people wear KN95 or N95 masks instead of basic cloth ones.
However, the CDC just announced it has no plans of doing that.
Any mask is better
Last week, head of the CDC Rochelle Walensky said the agency wasn’t changing its mask recommendation now, and had no foreseeable plans to do so.
Walensky reiterated that “any mask is better than no mask,” and that the mask should be “well-fitting.” The CDC head also said there are plans to update the website to include information on which types of masks provide the best level of protection against COVID-19. For instance, KN95 and N95 masks give wearers improved filtration, making them more effective at protecting people from infection.
“We want to provide Americans with the best and most updated information to choose what mask is going to be right for them,” Walensky said.
Despite this announcement, other experts disagree with the CDC, saying everyone should be wearing KN95 or N95 masks.
Leana Wen, doctor and public health professor at George Washington University, believes cloth masks are ineffective. According to Wen, they are “little more than facial decorations” and should not be considered an “acceptable form of face covering.”
“The U.S. should require and distribute medical-grade surgical masks to be worn in crowded indoor spaces,” Wen said.
So what does this mean for employers? Technically, nothing, says employment law attorney Jon Hyman. Since the CDC made no changes to their mask recommendation, employers can continue to follow current masking guidelines — and they should require masks if local transmission is high.
But it’s important to be aware that KN95 and N95 masks could virtually eliminate the spread of COVID-19. And if you’re interested in requiring them at your workplace, keep in mind you’d have to provide them for your employees — or allow people who can’t get them to continue wearing cloth masks.