The Latest Mask Guidance from the CDC

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to revise its guidance on the use of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Since we issued our February 18, 2021 blog post, The Latest COVID-19 Workplace Guidance from the CDC: More on Masks, Returning to Work After Infection, and Vaccine Communications to Employees, the CDC has further updated its Types of Masks guidance and Your Guide to Masks.

The CDC continues to emphasize that masks should fit snugly. Both cloth masks and disposable masks should have multiple layers and nose wires, and the cloth masks should be tightly woven. The CDC also offers the following recommendations to improve fit and protection:

  • Wear two masks (disposable mask underneath AND cloth mask on top)
  • A cloth mask can be combined with a fitter or brace
  • Knot and tuck ear loops of a 3-ply mask where they join the edge of the mask

As to other types of face coverings, the CDC cautions that KN95 masks should not be layered. It also warns of counterfeit KN95 masks. Neck gaiters should have two layers or be doubled. And the CDC states that face shields are not recommended, as their effectiveness is still unknown. Scarves, balaclavas and ski masks are not a substitute for masks, and should be worn over a mask.

As we suggested in our blog post, employers may wish to consider recommending employees to double-mask in order to further reduce the risk of spread. If so, they should consider providing disposable masks to employees, who may not otherwise be able to find or afford them, to use with their own cloth masks (unless the employer is also already providing cloth masks). Of course, employers must be receptive to concerns about difficulty breathing, and may need to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled employees who may not be able to tolerate a double mask (or even a single one). But given how many people’s masks do not fully cover the nose and mouth, it is most important for employers to make sure employees are wearing masks correctly!