KEY POINTS

  • Following a surge in cases, the CDC announced that face masks should again be worn indoors
  • A former FDA commissioner recommended using KN95 or N95 masks if available
  • The CDC recommended wearing face masks with two layers of breathable fabric and completely cover the nose and mouth

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an update to its masking guidance Tuesday, recommending that everyone wear a mask indoors in places where the coronavirus is spreading widely, regardless of whether or not they are vaccinated.

The announcement came after a surge in cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant among those who have not been vaccinated. Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Scott Gottlieb explained that certain face coverings may offer better protection against the deadly variant.

"It’s not more airborne and it’s not more likely to be permeable to a mask," Gottlieb told CBS’ "Face the Nation." "The quality of the mask does matter. So if you can get your hands on a KN95 or N95 mask, that’s going to afford you a lot more protection."

Both the KN95 and the N95 masks filter 95% of particles. Currently, however, the CDC recommends that N95 respirators be prioritized for protection against the virus in healthcare settings, Fox News reported.

The agency advised health workers to continue wearing the said respirators to work, adding that as more N95 masks become available, they should eventually be used in non-healthcare settings as well.

The FDA also said that the "optimal way to prevent airborne transmission is to use a combination of interventions from across the hierarchy of controls, not just PPE alone." 

The CDC has not issued any guidance regarding the claim that certain masks offer better protection against the variant. Still, the agency suggested choosing a mask that contains two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric and completely covers the nose and mouth.

Masks should also fit snugly against the side of the face and should have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out of the top.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky explained in a COVID-19 briefing last week that vaccinated individuals "need to be wearing a mask to protect yourself and others around you."

"If you are unvaccinated, if you are vaccinated, you get exceptional protection from the vaccines, but you have the opportunity to make the personal choice to add extra layers of protection if you so choose," Walensky said. 

Like many other health experts, the CDC director strongly encouraged Americans to take the Delta variant seriously, especially if they are still unvaccinated.

"If you are not vaccinated, please take the delta very seriously. This virus has no incentive to let up and it remains in search of the next vulnerable person to infect," Walensky said. "Please consider getting vaccinated and take precautions until you do." 

Cover up: Spectators wearing protective face masks at Roland Garros on Sunday where a maximum 5,000 fans were allowed on site under Covid-19 restrictions Cover up: Spectators wearing protective face masks at Roland Garros on Sunday where a maximum 5,000 fans were allowed on site under Covid-19 restrictions Photo: AFP / Anne-Christine POUJOULAT