Wearing a mask protects both the person who wears it and those around them, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says.
The CDC explained as much in a new guidance released on Tuesday after the agency had previously emphasized masks' ability to protect others rather than the mask-wearer, CNN reports.
The new guidance says that "masks are primarily intended to reduce the emission of virus-laden droplets," but they "also help reduce inhalation of these droplets by the wearer." The CDC had previously said that "the main protection individuals gain from masking occurs when others in their communities also wear face coverings," The New York Times reports.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, explained on Tuesday that this "added benefit" of wearing a mask has recently been affirmed by new data.
"If you put a mask on, you prevent the exhaling of droplets that would infect others," Fauci told MSNBC. "So it's very clear that you are protecting someone and their mask is protecting you. But recent data has now shown that as a matter of fact, there's also the added benefit to protect you from droplets and virus that's coming your way. So it's a two-way street."
Infectious-disease expert Dr. Monica Gandhi praised this updated guidance from the CDC, telling the Times this "matters for public-health messaging, because we don't have people yet who are completely convinced about the benefits of masking until they see the CDC say that it also protects you and your family." Gandhi added, "I would encourage every American to adhere to masking guidelines now that we hear more clearly today that this will protect you and others."
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.