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The CDC Just Announced You Shouldn't Wear These Masks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just revised their guidance about facial protection.

We're all being bombarded by online ads for face masks everywhere these days. Wearing one is the responsible thing to do, but which do you choose? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just said that one type should definitely be off the table (and off your face): Any masks with valves or vents.

On Thursday, the CDC officially advised that people should not wear face masks that have vents or valves, according to the About Masks section of its website.

They Allow Viruses to Escape

Face masks with vents or valves may be more comfortable for users, because they allow air to escape from the mask; that keeps users cooler. Unfortunately, that can also allow viruses such as coronavirus to escape.

Back in May, health officials warned that this type of mask might benefit the wearer but does little to advantage public health. "The valves actually make things a lot more comfortable because they make the mask a lot more breathable," Dr. Ali Raj, executive vice chairman of the department of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the Boston Globe. "But they don't do anything in terms of filtering out anything the wearer is exhaling."

RELATED: The CDC Just Announced This New Face Mask Rule

One of the biggest challenges about the coronavirus is that many people who are infected—up to 40%—may feel and show no symptoms, allowing them to spread it widely. This has proved to be a major challenge for states and localities who've been establishing lockdown and reopening plans.

From the beginning of the pandemic, mask requirements have varied from state to state, which has caused confusion in certain states emerging from an original lockdown

"When you've got people coming out and businesses opening back up, you might as well have people not wearing masks at all if they've got a one-way valve," said Raj, "because they're just breathing everything right out into the air without any filtration."

But as far as the CDC is concerned, valved masks are a no-go. Officials say that an N95 respirator with an exhalation valve "does provide the same level of protection to the wearer as one that does not have a valve." However, says the CDC, "respirators with exhalation valves should not be used in situations where a sterile field must be maintained … because the exhalation valve allows unfiltered exhaled air to escape into the sterile field."

How to Stay Safe

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19: Wear a mask (without a valve), get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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