CDC Recommends Universal Mask Wearing to Slow COVID-19 Spread


Evidence of transmission prevention was shown in the largest health care system in Massachusetts after universal masking of all health care employees and patients was implemented.

Current evidence shows face coverings and masks can prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to the CDC. The agency has publicly recommended cloth face coverings to be worn.

“Cloth face coverings are 1 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,” stated CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield, in a press release.1

The CDC also emphasized the importance of masks and face coverings in a recent JAMA editorial that discussed protecting others as well as personal protection against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19.2

Evidence Demonstrating Masks and Cloth Face Coverings Reduce Transmission

With emerging evidence showing that asymptomatic individuals can spread SARS-CoV-2, universal mask wearing is crucial to slow the pandemic especially as more businesses have reopened.2 Since there are no federal laws enforcing universal mask wearing, some states have enacted laws that mandate them. Without an FDA approved treatment or vaccine for COVID-19, masks are the best form of protection.

Evidence of transmission prevention was shown in the largest health care system in Massachusetts after universal masking of all health care employees and patients was implemented.3 One CDC report further demonstrated the importance of face covering mandates in the community setting for reducing the spread of SARS-CoV-2.4 The report revealed that 2 hair stylists in Missouri who were symptomatic and tested positive for COVID-19 were wearing face coverings, along with the clients at the hair salon.4 None of the 139 clients became symptomatic, and 67 of the patrons who were tested for SARS-CoV-2 were negative.4 These studies further showcase the importance of universal mask wearing.

CDC Face Covering Recommendations

The CDC recommends that individuals wear cloth face coverings in public settings and when around those who do not live in the same household to reduce the spray of respiratory droplets.5 Cloth face coverings should not be worn by children under the age of 2 years or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the mask without assistance. Face coverings should be used in combination with social distancing measures, or staying at least 6 feet away from other individuals.

Health care professionals can play an important role in educating the public about the proper use of face coverings to ensure they are being used appropriately.

Individuals should wash their hands before putting on face coverings, and they should cover the nose and mouth and be secured under the chin. Before removing the face covering, individuals should wash their hands and untie the strings behind the head or stretch the ear loops. Then, the outside corners should be folded together, and the face covering should be placed in the washing machine. Face coverings can be washed with the laundry and regular detergent on the warmest appropriate water setting and dried using the highest heat setting.5


  1. CDC Calls on Americans to Wear Masks to Prevent COVID-19 Spread [news release].Atlanta, GA: CDC; July 14, 2020. Accessed July 17, 2020.
  2. Brooks JT, Butler JC, Redfield RR. Time for universal masking and prevention of transmission of SARS-CoV-2- The time is now. JAMA. Published online July 14, 2020.doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.13107.
  3. Wang X, Ferro EG, Zhou G, Hashimoto D, Bhatt DL. Association between universal masking in a health care system and SARS-CoV-2 positivity among health care workers.JAMA. Published online July 14, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.12897.
  4. Hendrix MJ, Walde C, Findley K, Trotman R. Absence of Apparent Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from Two Stylists After Exposure at a Hair Salon with a Universal Face Covering Policy — Springfield, Missouri, May 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:930-932. doi:
  5. CDC. Considerations for wearing cloth face coverings. Updated July 16, 2020. Accessed July 18, 2020.
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