At the start of the pandemic, we were told that we shouldn’t wear masks. Why are we now told that we should wear them and that they are effective?
Recommending the use of masks to decrease the transmission of respiratory illnesses is not unique to this pandemic. During flu season, when there are increased respiratory infections spreading in the community, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that coughing patients and anyone suspected of having the flu should wear a mask until they are isolated in a private room.
The mask recommendations for COVID-19 evolved due to shortages of masks and as we learned more about how the virus was spread – specifically that the virus can be spread by people who do not have symptoms or before they are experiencing symptoms. Updating guidance based on new scientific evidence is one of the critical roles the CDC plays in protecting public health. As new information is gathered and the virus evolves, guidance and recommendations will continue to be updated to better guide an effective response to the pandemic.
CDC’s guidance keeps changing and seems to be contradictory and to conflict with local and state guidelines and recommendations.
The response to the pandemic will need to be adjusted based on how we are doing at the national, state and local level. It is important to keep in mind that CDC does not make laws, but rather it issues guidance and recommendations that can inform policy decisions to meet a community’s specific needs. If a city, county or state is experiencing higher rates of disease transmission it can and should enact mitigation measures that are appropriate for its population. CDC guidance is not meant to be “one size fits all.”
Additionally, employers may choose to have their own more stringent policies in place to fit their business models and to protect their employees and clients.
Does the recommendation for vaccinated people to wear masks mean that the vaccines don’t work or that they are not effective?
Due to the increase in COVID-19 cases and the slowing vaccination rates in Clark County, the Southern Nevada Health District did recommend that both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals wear masks when in public indoor settings. On July 27, the CDC updated its guidance to recommend people living in an area of substantial or high transmission wear masks indoors in public places and the State of Nevada’s directive was updated accordingly. Wearing masks indoors maximizes protection for everyone from the Delta variant and helps to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Vaccines are preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death, and are effective against the Delta variant. High vaccination coverage will reduce spread of the virus in our community and help new variants from emerging.