The CDC on Friday for the first time recommended that people wear masks at all times when they’re not home, saying the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. has entered a phase of “high level transmission.”
The guidance, included in a new report, advised state and local officials to impose mask mandates for indoor settings as part of broader mitigation efforts to control the spread of the virus. It echoes President-elect Joe Biden’s call for mask orders that a number of red state governors have rejected.
The context: This is the first time the CDC has recommended universal mask-wearing, including indoors. The agency for months has endorsed face coverings, and in July released a study touting their effectiveness in community settings to reduce transmission of the virus.
The new guidance comes as Covid cases continue to surge across the country. The U.S. on Wednesday hit a record number of deaths — 2,800 in a single day — with the toll expected to intensify going into the holidays as more people travel and gather.
So far, the U.S. has reported more than 14.2 million cases and at least 277,000 deaths. CDC officials on Thursday during a roundtable with Vice President Mike Pence warned that hospitalizations are continuing to surge and that they are very worried about the health system getting overwhelmed.
The CDC earlier this week put out guidance urging Americans not to travel for the holidays, in an effort to limit further transmission.
The agency’s new report includes a number of other public health measures local and state governments can take to help get the pandemic under control, including issuing policies restricting nonessential indoor gatherings, like indoor dining, and beefing up contact tracing efforts.