CDC says it will update mask 'information' amid COVID surge: 'Any mask is better than no mask'

Prior to omicron, CDC director Rochelle Walensky resisted suggesting N95 masks for the average American.

ByAnne Flaherty via ABCNews logo
Wednesday, January 12, 2022
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More than 1.4 million new COVID cases were reported in the U.S. in 24 hours as COVID-19 numbers are starting to plateau for the first time in weeks.

WASHINGTON -- The CDC says it plans to update its mask "information" to "best reflect the multiple options available to people and the different levels of protection they provide."

At Wednesday's White House briefing, when asked about changing the CDC's mask guidance CDC director Rochelle Walensky said the guidance won't change but the CDC will update its website to reflect which masks work best, without telling Americans which one to wear.

"CDC continues to recommend that any mask is better than no mask and we do encourage all Americans to wear a well-fitting mask to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID 19. And that recommendation is not going to change," Walensky said.

"We are preparing an update to the information on our mask website to best reflect the options that are available ... and the different levels of protection different masks provide. And we want to provide Americans the best and most updated information to choose what mask is going to be right for them," she said.

"The best mask that you wear is the one that you will wear and the one you can keep on all day long that you can tolerate in public indoor settings and tolerate where you need to wear it," Walensky said. "We will provide information on improved filtration and that occurs with other masks such as N95s and information that the public needs about how to make a choice, which mask is the right one for them. But most importantly, we want to highlight the best mask for you as the one that you can wear comfortably."

Since the arrival of omicron, health experts have urged Americans to upgrade their cloth masks to an N95 or KN95 because the new variant is so highly transmissible. But these higher-grade masks are costly and hard to find.

Prior to omicron, CDC director Rochelle Walensky resisted suggesting N95 masks for the average American because the CDC didn't want to discourage people from wearing any mask.

Dawn O'Connell, a top official at the Health and Human Services Department, said Tuesday that the Biden administration plans to increase production of N95s. There are already 737 million N95 masks in the strategic national stockpile available for medical workers.