Since early 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has called on Americans to wear cloth face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. Since then, research has continued to affirm that masks are a critical tool in the fight against the virus, helping to prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading it to others.

“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.”

This month, the CDC released new data that found some cloth face coverings could potentially provide protective benefits, as well.

According to the scientific brief,  “Masks also help reduce inhalation of droplets by the wearer (“filtration for personal protection”). The community benefit of masking for SARS-CoV-2 control is due to the combination of these effects; individual prevention benefit increases with increasing numbers of people using masks consistently and correctly.”

Studies demonstrate that cloth mask materials can also reduce wearers’ exposure to infectious droplets through filtration, including filtration of fine droplets and particles less than 10 microns.

Scientific Brief: Community Use of Cloth Masks to Control the Spread of SARS-CoV-2

Following the release of CDC’s new brief, the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its Frequently Asked Questions to address whether it considers cloth face coverings personal protective equipment (PPE). The FAQ states that OSHA does not believe enough information is currently available to determine if a particular cloth face covering provides sufficient protection from the coronavirus hazard to be PPE under OSHA’s standard.

OSHA’s determination is consistent with statements made by the CDC, which has stated it needs more research on cloth facemasks’ protective effects, particularly on the combination of materials that maximize blocking and filtering effectiveness.

However, OSHA continues to encourage workers strongly to wear face coverings when in close contact with others to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus, if it is appropriate for the work environment.

Resources on Wearing Masks:

CDC: Use of Masks to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19

– OSHA: Cloth Face Coverings FAQ